Elevations RTC – A New Beginning for Troubled Teens

Elevations RTC

Elevations RTC is a co-ed residential treatment program located 30 minutes north of Salt Lake City, Utah. As a treatment center for troubled teens, we focus primarily on promoting the positive and healthy development of troubled adolescents through intensive therapy and comprehensive medical care.

We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to share a recent interview with Judi Jacques, M.Ed, Executive Director of Elevations RTC, and Jennifer Wilde, LCSW, Executive Clinical Director of Elevations RTC. Judi and Jennifer share their unique perspective on what makes Elevations RTC different and the specific steps Elevations RTC takes to assure the safety and security of its residents.

Judi began her career as a history teacher and cheerleading coach with junior high students. After becoming disillusioned with the public school setting, Judi moved to a residential setting and has never looked back. Eventually obtaining her Masters in Special Education from Westminster University, Judi left classroom teaching to expand her role into all arenas with the students as the Executive Director. Judi shares the Executive team role with Jennifer Wilde.

Always willing to support the students by creating a “normalized” experience, Judi is on hand to organize activities, many of which involve her hidden talents in cheerleading. Outside of her time at Elevations RTC, Judi loves reading, yoga, traveling and participating in outdoor adventures with her husband and dogs.

Jennifer has extensive experience working with adolescents, having worked in the field of adolescent treatment for over 25 years, she has worked in a variety of settings including residential treatment, therapeutic boarding, and wilderness. Currently, she is half of the executive team at Elevations RTC, sharing this role with Judi Jacques.

Jennifer is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, she received her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Utah in 1997. Certified in DBT, and trained in treating all mood disorders, trauma, substance use, and family difficulties, Jennifer likes to focus on preparing each student for a successful transition from treatment to their next adventure in life. Beginning on day 1 of the treatment process, her goal is to prepare the student for success. Often recognizing the need for creativity and affirmation, Jennifer encourages the entire treatment team to find ways to access each student’s motivation and join them in the change process rather than engaging in a power struggle, something that commonly erupts when working with adolescents.

When not having fun with the kids at Elevations RTC, Jennifer likes to spend time outdoors gardening, backpacking, snowshoeing, hiking and canoeing with her husband and two sons. She also loves dogs, her lab-mix “Zero” joins her at work every day, and is usually more popular than she is with the students!

What makes Elevations RTC different from other residential treatment centers?

Jennifer- I would say the biggest difference is our overall focus on safety because we are licensed as an intermediate secure facility, we do have the dorm areas that have doors that are locked from both sides. We are able to help kids stay safe when they have impulses or other difficulties that make it unsafe for them to be out on the rest of the campus. The other piece that makes us stand out is our level of psychiatric care. We have psychiatric practitioners on-site full time, and we are frequently meeting with students and assessing their needs psychiatrically. We also involve the psychiatric staff in our treatment team at a very high level. Not only are they working on addressing medication needs, but they are also involved in developing interventions and focusing on the higher level sophisticated approaches to individualizing the treatment.

Judi- Elevations is also different from other RTCs in that we are an all gender program. We have students on campus who are cisgender boys and girls, but we also have students who are transgender, gender-neutral, non-binary kiddos as well. So that makes us pretty unique in the way we also manage having a gender-neutral campus. Kids can room and program with the gender of their identity as opposed to just the assigned sex at birth.

Jennifer- The other component the co-ed atmosphere brings is it allows the kids to practice their skills within a more normalized setting. Rather than believing that treatment can happen in a bubble, we allow the adolescents to address the typical peer relationships including amongst all of the genders that happen during adolescence.

How does Elevations RTC assure safety and security for its residents?

Judi- Elevations RTC has a 1 to 5 staff to student ratio. We also have a high level of nursing care, a high level of supervision from the staff. We have a high level of input from psychiatric practitioners, and mental health practitioners as well. We have a lot of professional expertise that guides, directs, and manages the implementation of the programming here. We do have secure dorms, which means the doors are locked on the dorm areas. In the other non-secure (by physical means) areas of the building, we have staff stationed at strategic locations to make sure the students are safe from elopement. We also have safety measures surrounding off campus activities and movement around campus with some of the privileges the students are allowed throughout their time. We have a lot of policies and procedures, and some of the things that guide us in those policies and procedures that are specifically related to safety come from our Joint Commission accreditation. We are held to a high level of safety because of the accreditation and those periodic onsite reviews. Additionally, we are licensed by the Utah Department of Human Services, the office of licensing, which dictates many safety and security measures.

Jennifer- The thing that I would add to how we keep the students safe is that we do have a graduated program of supervision that also addresses self-harming behaviors and suicidality. We feel very comfortable accepting students into our program who have self-harm and suicide as an issue because we have interventions and programs in place to provide supervision and safety through managing the environment and also managing their interactions with themselves and others.

Judi- One of the things that I want to mention regarding safety is that because we are an intermediate secure facility, we are accredited by Joint Commission, and we are licensed by the state, yes we do have to meet a high level of safety and security, but despite all of those safety and security measures we are able to offer our students a normalized experience at this level of care. We allow the students to have some freedoms on campus related to their progress, related to what we use as a phase system. As students gain more trust and make more progress, they are allowed a couple of extra freedoms throughout their stay so that they can experience some normalization and thus, they are better prepared for the outside world. Because, as we know, the outside world, the world they are going to transition back to, is not as secure, is not as safe as what we have here, and we need to make sure that the environment isn’t 100% sterile before they go back out to that environment.

Many thanks to Judi and Jennifer for sharing their time and thoughts. If you are interested in learning more about Elevations RTC, visit: www.elevationsrtc.com