Cayuga Centers is closing its residential treatment program in Auburn and cutting about 120 staff members, according to a press release issued Thursday.
The organization's board of trustees made the decision to end its residential services on Wednesday. The program has lost more than $2 million since July, President and CEO Edward Hayes said.
Records show the program served 147 children from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, but as of Thursday, just 14 were left in the program, Hayes said.
Hayes said he is working with the respective counties where the children are from to get them placed in other housing. They will have 90 days to get placed, and staff will have 90 days before the program officially closes.
Auburn Enlarged City School District operates a school on the Cayuga Centers campus for those children, but Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo said Cayuga Centers had not notified him of the closure. He had found out through a district staff member at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, he said, and he emailed Hayes to confirm that the news was true. Hayes responded that it was, and Pirozzolo said he is planning to meet with staff and the school board early next week.
The district employs 19 people in the school, and Pirozzolo said he does not see being able to save all of those positions. The positions include teachers, aids and administrative staff.
About two weeks ago the school was serving about 24 children, Pirozzolo said, adding that Cayuga Centers had told him it was hoping to have 30 children in the school by March 1. He did not know that only 14 remained.
"It's very unfortunate with the closure and the impact and the effect that it has had not only at Cayuga Centers, but the school district and the community as well," he said. "We've been in partnerships with Cayuga Centers for over 20 years, and it's unfortunate to hear this information third-hand, and not directly from Cayuga Centers leadership and board."
The positions Cayuga Centers is cutting include group care workers, unit managers, assistant managers, clinicians, case planners, maintenance and kitchen staff, Hayes said. There are also some cuts in human resources and in the administration that had supported the residential treatment center in different ways.
"Trustees and senior staff members deeply regret having to lay off so many excellent people," said David Connelly, chair of the board, in a release. "They have been working extraordinarily hard, heart and soul, trying to make our residential program work under increasingly difficult circumstances. It grieves us to have to let them go."
Because of the program's residential neighborhood location, "it experienced increasing difficulty attracting youths appropriate for the setting. It has declined to accept sexual offenders, for instance," the release said.
Tax records show that the residential treatment program, which has been part of Cayuga Centers since the 1950s, has 53 beds in four housing units licensed by the state Office of Children and Family Services. Three homes are located on Hamilton Avenue. Two can serve 15 people each, and can be single-gender or co-ed. The third housing unit is a 10-bed facility for girls. The fourth home is located on Franklin Street and can serve 13 youth. It is a co-ed facility.
The girls-only unit received children referred from OCFS and the other three units accepted children from various counties' social services departments. Hayes said children came from all over the state.
When asked about the future of the houses the center owns, Hayes said "no future decisions or announcements are pending at this point."
Hayes added that changes to youth services also instigated the closure decision. The agency is focusing on foster care services that he said "produce wonderful outcomes at much lower cost than congregate care placement."
Cayuga Centers continues to operate all its other programs in its nine locations in upstate New York, in addition to New York City, Palm Beach County, Florida, and Delaware, according to the release. About 734 positions remain in the agency, of which Hayes said between 150 and 200 are in Auburn.
OCFS said it was notified of the organization's decision to shut down the residential treatment center.
"The program closure was a business decision made by Cayuga Center's board and was not prompted by an OCFS corrective action plan," the office said in a statement to The Citizen. "Youth in their care who are ready to leave the program will be discharged to their homes. The remaining youth will be transferred to other residential programs with OCFS oversight of the placements."