A national teen mental health firm is hoping to move into the former Oakley School
Officials to hold public hearing Wednesday
A fast-growing, nationwide teen mental health rehabilitation company is proposing to convert the former Oakley School into a teen residential treatment center, and the Oakley Planning Commission is soliciting feedback at a public hearing Wednesday night.
Newport Academy is applying for a conditional use permit from the city to operate the site with as many as 30 female and 30 male clients aged 13 to 18, with about 200 full- and part-time employees.
What: Public hearing for teen treatment center at the former Oakley School site
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 17
Where: Via Zoom with the meeting ID 820 258 4629 and passcode 777869
At an informational session with the Oakley City Council last week, a Newport Academy leadership team said the firm is growing quickly and has locations on the East and West Coasts. Its philosophy, they said, is to treat the underlying mental health issues that manifest in self-destructive behaviors.
The officials said they hope to offer constructive alternative behaviors using art, equine therapy, music and yoga.
The Oakley School offered a mix of college preparatory classes and supportive therapy to adolescents in a facility south of Weber Canyon Road. It closed in 2017 after 19 years in business as it struggled to attract enough students to support itself.
The site includes a large gym, dormitories that can accommodate 120 people and a main building with classrooms, a kitchen and common areas.
It has drawn interest from at least one other alternative education program that lauded its low turnover costs and that it can almost immediately be put back to use.
Newport Academy has facilities in Northern and Southern California, Washington, Connecticut and Virginia. Officials said they are looking to expand to a handful of other states, including Utah.
They identified Utah as an underserved market even in the broader context of what they called a nationwide mental health epidemic.
Newport Academy’s average client is 17 years old and they spend about 49 days in treatment, officials said, with about two-thirds diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Newport Healthcare also operates a program for older clients, called Newport Institute, which offers behavioral healthcare programs for clients aged 18 to 27.
Officials said that Newport Academy clients have traditionally been equally split along gender lines, but since the pandemic started, female clients have outnumbered males two-to-one.
The Oakley facility would be segregated by gender.
In submitted documents accompanying its presentation to the Council, Newport Academy indicated it did not anticipate new construction at the facility, though it planned cosmetic upgrades before opening.
The documents indicate a possible future amphitheater and a new building, but state there are no plans to build them initially.
Newport Academy officials said they anticipate converting the space to accommodate 40 to 60 clients and said the program would likely grow as they built a workforce capable of handling more clients.
City Councilors asked about the firm’s security plans, whether it planned to hire workers from the area and if it would consider employee housing on-site.
Newport Academy officials indicated the minimum four-to-one student to staff ratio might be reduced at night, but that they have experience securing multiple facilities and would use cameras and other technology to ensure students remained on campus.
They said their research indicated 70,000 healthcare workers live within 25 miles of Oakley and they anticipated drawing from that pool of workers.
They indicated the program’s ability to hire healthcare workers would likely determine how fast it could grow, and they anticipated starting with fewer than the 60 clients envisioned as the eventual capacity.
The 200 employees include medical professionals, facilities managers and therapists. Officials said they would be open to the idea of employee housing on campus, though no detailed talks occurred.
The Oakley Planning Commission meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Wednesday, and is accessible via Zoom using the meeting ID 820 258 4629 and passcode 777869. More information can be found on the city’s website. The commission will also hold a public hearing on proposed changes to the city’s general plan and land-use code, two documents that heavily influence how the city will grow in the future.
Correction: This article has been corrected to show that Newport Academy plans to offer equine therapy.
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Jenn Armstrong-Solomon provides the services of her trauma-sensitive yoga nonprofit, Tall Mountain Wellness, free of charge to groups like the Summit County Drug Court and the county jail.