Program Changes

Onarga Academy is diversifying its programming. Always monitoring trends and changes within the field, the Diversify and Grow Committee evaluates changes to best serve our clients, adapt for fiscal viability, and provide services that are in line with the needs of the state and additional referral sources.

In early September, Onarga Academy programs made a major change to better serve our youth. Four of our sexual behavior problem units were condensed to three. This allowed us to make room for an additional emotional/behavioral disorders program. Most youth remained with their current program, but some were moved to be with a more appropriate age group. Staff were given the opportunity to express interest in moving departments, and a total of 21 staff moved departments or started serving a new population.

Reorganizing the programs moved very quickly in order to accommodate incoming and transitioning youth. Although creating a second “Hoop Dreams” program had been considered for some time, the timing was finally right to begin making the change.

“I’m really excited with what we’ve been able to do in such a short period of time,” said Jamie Kozma, Clinical Director. “We’re looking forward to being able to serve a wider range of kids and families.”

The level of coordination between the administration and all the departments was most impressive of all. Clinical Supervisors were included to make as many decisions as possible; Unit Coordinators went above and beyond to plan each detail of the changes and took it upon themselves to plan extra meetings to ensure everything would go smoothly. Throughout the move, our Youth Care Professionals and Therapists worked directly with the youth to reduce as much stress as possible.

“I’m very impressed with the high level of organization and detail throughout the process of reorganizing our programs,” said Dennis Wiley, Executive Director. “It is challenging, but staff are handling it very well.”

“Once the decision was made, we immediately communicated it to the supervisors and called an All Staff Meeting to be open about the changes,” said Jody Swearingen, Human Resources Manager. “I think the keys to our success was communication and transparency.”

The most major change was a physical one; the Victory Lane program and what was previously Phoenix Field switched locations to allow both emotional/behavioral programs to be in the same building. Phoenix Field has now transformed into the newest emotional/behavioral disorders program, themed as Heroes Rising.

The new age brackets for each of our programs are:

Sexual Behaviors Programs
Field of Dreams: young adolescent program, ages 11-14
Victory Lane: Middle adolescent program, ages 14-16
Pathfinders: Older adolescent program, ages 16-20

Emotional/Behavioral Disorders Programs
Heroes Rising (new program): young adolescent emotional disorders program, ages 10-14
Hoop Dreams: middle adolescent emotional disorders program, ages 14-16

Hoop Dreams previously served boys ages 12 to 16, but serving a wide age range brought dual programming challenges. Breaking the program into two age groups will allow staff to tailor programming more easily.

“I’m incredibly proud of all of our staff and how they’ve been able to pull together to make these changes happen with a minimum disruption to our clients,” said Kozma.

Staff were uneasy with the changes at first, but all were open to doing what is best for our youth. So far, the youth on the Heroes Rising program are excited to be a part of something new, and any youth who were moved are settling into their new programs.

“I’m most impressed with our employees’ teamwork and enthusiasm,” said Swearingen. “They truly are keeping our kids’ needs first as we make these changes.”


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