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Baldwin Co. juvenile camp faces problems of it's own

BAY MINETTE, Ala. (WPMI) The Baldwin County Wilderness Camp for troubled teens is facing it's own troubles. Last December a 15-year-old was jailed following a rape at the camp located in North Baldwin County.

The camp's purpose is to help struggling teens better their lives through a court-ordered stay at the facility. Commissioners today say two other counties are now opting out of sending their teens to the camp. Juvenile courts in Mobile and Escambia County are the two that have opted out.

Officials say the rape incident may have played a part but it really comes down to money. Scaling back the program will be the first step, graduating the teens that are there now and eventually keeping only 16 boys and 16 girls, all from Baldwin County. "I think that if we bring it back down to where its only Baldwin County kids we will know how many we have in it and not depend on anybody else that's money we can re-coup we know we can re-coup that," said Commissioner Charles "Skip" Gruber.

Right now Medicare reimburses the county up to 70% of the cost to treat each teenager in the program. That's roughly $30,000 for each teen.

One option is to outsource the program by hiring a private firm to run the facility. The Sheriff says it may be a valuable option. The county would maintain or possibly lease the facility, saving money, and a private program in many cases is much more flexible. "Once a person leaves the program that they are outside of the jurisdiction of the court they can still voluntarily continue in the program for continued therapy," said Baldwin County Sheriff Huey Mack Jr.

Vacant counselor positions would not be filled and some on the current staff would be given a fair notice. "We have smart people that are there and they will be moving on in their natural way without having to publicly you know dispose of them," said camp Director Jennifer Lee..

"We cant continue to fund the big numbers we've had in the past. We need to either make it more efficient or put it out to the private sector so we can better serve these kids in our county," said Commissioner Tucker Dorsey. Commissioners say they will start the process of "gathering proposals" from private companies to run the facility. A final decision will come at later date.

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