Youth Bridge, Inc. started on a corner in Winslow, Arkansas in 1963: back then it was just a home for neglected young men, known as “Boyland”. By the late ‘70s, Boyland had merged with two similar organizations and wisely rechristened itself Youth Bridge, Inc., offering services to at-risk youth and their families. Clients at Youth Bridge receive treatment for substance abuse and behavioral disorders in residential or outpatient environments. Today there are five clinical offices and three residential homes, two of which are for teens struggling with substance abuse. A lot of responsibility falls on Youth Bridge, as the only Department of Youth Services approved residential substance abuse program in Arkansas. The organization serves nine counties: Baxter, Benton, Boone, Carroll, Fulton, Madison, Marion, Newton and Washington and over 3,000 clients a year.
Youth Bridge, Inc. runs two residential facilities that specifically address substance abuse treatment. The boys home, opened in 2011, is in Springdale. The Bell House for Girls opened the following year in Fayetteville. The Springdale facility looks a little like an old fashioned schoolhouse. It’s a simple, one story building with a huge adjacent field and a parking lot out front that clients use as a makeshift basketball court.
At both facilities, clients share bedrooms and common spaces. All of the basics are provided for, like bedding, towels and meals. House Parents make sure that clients are doing their part, picking up around the house and demonstrating independent living skills. The availability of board games, televisions and sports equipment is all dependent on donation. Clients are expected to follow house rules and submit to periodic drug tests.
Treatment and Staff
The Springdale house for substance abuse rehabilitation accepts boys 14 to 18 years of age who are court-ordered to treatment. Youth Bridge, Inc. follows the 12-step recovery model, but while clients begin working the steps of AA and NA, they are also given an education about drug and alcohol abuse. Youth Bridge believes in the importance of teaching young people that living a life abstinent from drugs and alcohol can still be a full life. To this end, family, friends, and significant community members are involved in clients’ treatment as much as possible to better prepare clients for returning to a home environment conducive to sobriety. In a group setting, clients work with a counselor to discuss how life will look in sobriety, from how to manage responsibilities and relationships to having sober fun. Anger management counseling is offered for clients with behavioral issues. All clients are entitled to one-on-one mental health counseling and to academic support. There are two state certified classrooms where clients at the Springdale House can earn a high school diploma, GED, or even college credit.
The Bell House in Fayetteville is a voluntary group home for girls between the ages of 16 and 18. Bell House clients contend with substance abuse as well as co-occurring mental health issues and trauma. The major difference between Bell House clients and the boys at the Springdale House is that Bell House clients are not court-ordered to be there and are free to leave at any time. Clients at Bell House are asked to set their own recovery goals, as well as goals for their education. Like the boys at the Springdale house, clients at Bell House are offered academic support so they can earn high school, GED, and college credit. Clients may also have the opportunity to participate in a mentorship program, where they are paired with a volunteer to meet with regularly.
As much as possible, Youth Bridge encourages an at-home atmosphere where clients spend quality time together and support each other. Youth Bridge also operates five clinical offices where clients can receive outpatient care for addiction. These are in Fayetteville, Berryville, Rogers, Mountain Home, and Harrison.
Outpatient clients receive many of the same services as residential clients, minus the 24/7 supervision. Drug screens are available at every clinical office. Clients attend outpatient for substance abuse treatment, sexual trauma counseling, anger management counseling, grief counseling, as well as family and step family counseling.
Every client’s program is individualized. A case manager meets regularly with each client to go over his or her progress. All Youth Bridge clients in treatment for substance abuse are counseled by a licensed drug and alcohol professional or by a supervised substance abuse counselor-in-training. Licensed psychiatrists and psychologists on staff work with patients struggling with mental illness, from depression and anxiety to ADHD to severe and persistent disorders.
In Centerton, Youth Bridge, Inc. runs an emergency shelter for at-risk youth from 13 to 18 years old. The shelter can accommodate 24 boys and girls. Most clients here are runaways or at high risk for running away. Many come from abusive homes. In cases where family unification isn’t possible, Youth Bridge assists with long-term placement. In the meantime, Youth Bridge provides for basic needs—food, clothing—and counselors determine on a case-by-case basis what else clients need in terms of therapy.
Youth Bridge also provides in-school services five days a week at schools in Washington and Benton Counties as well as in Huntsville, Kingston, Harrison, and Salem. Counselors in the school are available for individual therapy, family therapy, and crisis management five days a week. Awareness being an important part of preventing drug and alcohol abuse, Youth Bridge also brings presentations about addiction into schools.
In 50 years, Youth Bridge, Inc. has made its mark in Northern Arkansas, and it’s an organization intent on continuing to expand. Youth Bridge is first to point out that homelessness, substance abuse and mental illness are blind, not the perils of the poor, and that it is our duty as citizens to help our communities by addressing these issues. The strength of Youth Bridge is undoubtedly that it has tailored its therapy and messaging to adolescents. As far as substance abuse residential rehabilitation for youth in Northern Arkansas, it’s really the only game in town.
Youth Bridge, Inc.
2153 E. Joyce Blvd., Ste 201
Fayetteville, AR 72703
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