Jason Groves talks about a new program at the Robert "Sonny" Hill Jr. Community Center in Middletown that aims to help juvenile offenders meet their

New program designed to help troubled Middletown youths

Adolescent Community Treatment Services program — or ACTS — is the brainchild of Jason Groves, a licensed chemical dependency counselor.

Groves has been working at Community Behavioral Health, based in Middletown, for several years and helped establish the Youth Intervention Program last fall, which so far has worked with more than 900 students in area school districts, he said.

ACTS will work with the probation department to help youths ages 14-18 fulfill their community service obligations and connect with treatment services and social service agencies to teach the teens life skills.

“We teach them resume writing, job skills and we have guest speakers come in — to basically give them a better shot of being successful and not to add to the recidivism rate for the juvenile probation they are on,” Groves said.

Participants in the 10-week program will meet twice a week for four hours, according to Groves.

Verlena Stewart, director of the Robert “Sonny” Hill Jr. Community Center, said Groves’ program will be a good fit with other offerings at the center and needs in the community.

“The community center has historically been a place for young people to come and have a safe place to have recreation and have meals and get after school tutelage and those type of services, so we thought it would be a good fit,” she said.

The city of Middletown awarded the center a $29,200 Community Development Block Grant that will help fund the new program.

“(The grant) allowed us to have an evening program here at the center and allowed us to hire two people, and the ACTS program will be a big part of that,” Stewart said.

The ACTS program will help youth with life skills in general, “like how to job seek and how to dress for work,” Stewart said. “It will also teach these kids some communication skills as well as how to treat each other.”

The program’s organizer also hopes to reach youths before they enter the juvenile justice system.

Groves plans to partner with Middletown Schools to reach at-risk youth.

“We will be working with the court to help kids deal with their community service mandates and with the Middletown school system’s counselors that have targeted at-risk kids that have not had contact with the court yet,” he said. “We want to connect with them before they get on that path.”

The program is slated to begin Aug. 15.

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