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County unveils one-stop shopping for juvenile services

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By AJ Vicens

Jeffco juveniles and their families in the midst of dealing with legal and mental-health issues will no longer have to travel all over the county to get help.

The county held an open house for the Remington Building on Oct. 8. The building, at West Sixth Avenue and Kipling Street and named for the former Remington munitions factory that formerly was across the street, houses many juvenile services in one place. Now, the Juvenile Assessment Center, the Jeffco DA’s diversion services and juvenile probation —along with many support services —share the recently renovated three-story building.

Some of the services were using rented space in a building that was no longer available for lease, and others were in old trailers with pipes that froze at the first hint of cold weather.

"This is a monumental moment," said Jeffco DA Scott Storey, speaking to several dozen law enforcement and juvenile support services staff members at the open house. "This shows that juvenile services are a priority."

Storey is proud of the new space, not just for the room it provides to many services that had long outgrown their old buildings, but because it opened up 20 offices in his building on the Jefferson County government campus.

"Now we have enough space to last well beyond my tenure," Storey said.

Jeffco Commissioners Kathy Hartman said that county staff realized the county could "buy a building cheaper than we could rent one." Commissioner Jim Congrove praised the new building as a huge improvement over the old one.

"This is really a nice event to be at," Congrove said. "My first trip to the Juvenile Assessment Center shocked me, quite frankly."

Dan Brennan, Wheat Ridge police chief, explained that as a patrol officer years ago, he wished there was a place like the Remington Building to take juveniles who may need more than a trip to a local detention center.

"Twenty years ago, we didn't have a lot of places to take kids like that," Brennan said.

Maryann Peratt, education liaison for Jeffco Public Schools and the Jeffco law enforcement community, said the space is already paying off.

"The building has enhanced communication already," she said.

The main feature of the space is the Juvenile Assessment Center, which was created in 1995 to aggressively attack juvenile crime. Instead of waiting until juveniles go through the system, the JAC works with them as they first enter the system, when they're usually accused of simple petty crimes. The JAC had 1,400 kids come through its doors last year in its old 5,500-square-foot facility. Since services were transferred to the Remington Building on Oct. 1, 40 kids have gone through the JAC, which now occupies a 32,000-square-foot building.

Jeff McDonald, executive director of the JAC, said the new space is a dream come true.

"My whole goal is to have a JIC, not a JAC," McDonald said. JIC refers to a "juvenile intervention center," as opposed to an assessment center to evaluate juveniles after they're already in the justice system. He said the new building and added space allow for self-referrals, so parents don't have to wait for their children to get in trouble before seeking help.

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.