December, 16 2017
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CALO a Specialized Care Facility
When kids come here, they are usually coming from another facility, another residential treatment center or straight from the hospital, so they think they know what to expect, they have their defenses up, they’re ready to battle, CEO and Founder of Change Academy Lake of the Ozarks Ken Huey said.
But then they see this view, he said pointing to the 700 feet of Lake Ozark waterfront and the two boats, they start working with the Golden Retrievers and they think maybe this is going to be different.
Exactly the reaction Huey and his team is going for.
With most residential treatment centers located in the western part of the United States, he said Missouri offers a unique location for his facility.
CALO is a private adolescent residential treatment center specializing in attachment, trauma and affect regulation nestled here in Lake of the Ozarks.
A lot of big words for kids who just need to have a second chance.
Huey said a lot of the kids he treats have problems with relationships and that has transcended through other parts of their lives.
“So we go back and we change that. We show and teach them how to deal and manage their emotions without a fistfight or cutting themselves or running away,” he said.
The Core of the Program
Building relationships is at the core of the program and is achieved through several different methods, including taking the kids through an adoption process of a golden retriever.
“They have to go through the parenting process with the dogs and when everything doesn’t go their way, we step back and help them realize this is similar to what they were putting their parents through,” he said. “We get them to feel the same things their parents felt and the empathy builds relationships.”
Taking Advantage of the Lake
Huey also takes advantage of the lake and teaches the kids how to waterski, wakeboard, swim and kayak.
“We put them in these controlled, stressful situations and help them work through it,” he said. “Learning to waterski is extremely stressful and when they don’t get up, they get frustrated and want to give up, we step in and talk them through what they are feeling and help them work through it. They’re learning life skills.”
Because some of the kids have never learned “normal” touching, Huey said his method also teaches trust and respect through physical interaction.
Simple things like placing a hand on a shoulder or giving a hug is terrifying to some of these kids because all they know is pain with touching, he explained.
The Touch of Success
He said one of the kids was burned with cigarettes as a small child and locked in a closet when he did something wrong. He was removed from his household and placed in foster care where he was later adopted. But those feelings stuck with him, Huey explained, and he started reacting the best way he knew how, physically.
“Abnormal touch was normal to him. You could not get close to him because you would just see him physically tense up,” he said. “It was like a hot poker.”
Four weeks into the program, Huey was able to place a hand on his leg.
Months into the program, Huey said the boy had a breakthrough when after a rough day, he offered Huey a hug.
“He’s 16 years old, and you know he’s never done that before, unless it was with a girl and only so he could have sex with her. So it was truly exciting to see that change in him,” he said. “That’s why we do this.”
But it’s not cheap for the private, more individual care. Huey said because the ratio of staff to kids is so high in state facilities, some get lost in the cracks and many do not get all the help they need before they are released. Often times, several stays are needed in state facilities.
Cost of Treatment
CALO charges from $9,000 to $13,000 a month, depending on the child. That cost includes everything from trips on the boat and therapy sessions to the ropes course and online academic program through Brigham Young University that allows the kids to not only get caught up on their schoolwork, but often times get ahead, Huey said.
“Right now, though, we’re working on breaking even. We’re working off of no margin. If I’ve got money, I buy something for the kids,” he said, explaining 75 percent of his budget goes into staffing.
Huey has even held off buying furniture for his office to buy a pingpong table for the recreation area.
“I couldn’t rationalize it in my mind,” he said.
The cost is also rational for parents looking for a solution.
“I know a lot of parents’ greatest fears is the sheriff’s department at their door telling them their child is dead or one awful situation or another. We try to prevent that,” he said.
Because they’ve only been in their location down Horseshoe Bend since June, he said there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, inside and out. And with more kids being referred, Huey is questioning when he’ll get the time, or money, to get it all finished.
Especially before October, when Huey will be sitting down with Dr. Phil McGraw of the Dr. Phil Show about his program. The meeting could result in a segment about CALO.
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