By David Meade
Representatives of Meridian Behavioral Health Systems recently met with members of Williamston Town Council to explain their plans for the old Williamston hospital building on Williams Street. Workers have been in the process of a $2 million renovation of the facility which will serve as a residential group home for ages from 6 to 21.
Renovations for the project are expected to be completed in July and licensing for the facility approved by August, according to Joshua Smith, Director of Special Projects and Operations for Meridian. Meridian operates a similar facility in Myrtle Beach which serves children from across the state. They also have locations in New Orleans, Nashville and Norman Oklahoma.
The Williamston location will primarily serve the upstate area, allowing those housed in it to be closer to family, friends and services, Smith said.
Meridian staff work with referrals from the Department of Social Services (DSS), mental health, schools and Departmentof Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Kids being housed at the facility may be there from 90 to 180 days, while others referred may be there for a year or longer.
Meridian focuses on treating the “whole person” including behavioral, educational and holistic wellbeing. The goal, according to Smith, is to be able to transition the kids from the facility back to the home or foster home.
The facility will have a local staff and will offer 60 to 70 employment opportunities. Job oppotunities include positions for human services, care coordinators, therapists and other positions.
Meridian’s programs focus on medical and behaviorial health, as well as educational and human services.
They also focus on improving individual living skills.
Other services offered include foster care for special needs children, counseling and support services.
The children housed at the facility will attend local public schools. Educational programs offered include homebound, middle school, high school and GED.
The completely renovated facility will include a playground and recreation area.
Numerous safety and security measures will be in effect, Smith said.
Once the facility is completely up and running with a full staff they will be providing food and housing for up to 53 kids.
According to Smith, Meridian Behavioral Health started out serving kids ages 6-12, and as the need grew, and some of those children stayed in the program, they were relicensed to serve age 13 and eventually were licensed to house to age 21.
The facility will be known as the Williamston Youth Academy
The staff at Meridian Behavioral Health facilities like to partner with local churches and organizations and invite them to come in, according to Smith.
“When we come into a community we want to be a bright spot and not a sore heal,” Smith said.
“Meridian Behavioral Health Systems is excited to announce the future opening of Williamston Youth Academy,” he said. “The academy is planned as a Group Care Level III facility to be licensed by the South Carolina Department of Social Services. This facility will provide intensive group home services for children and adolescents who present emotional and behavioral management challenges.”
The 20,000 square foot facility is located on Williams Street in Williamston.