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Ridge View Youth Services Center Closes After Concerns Over 'Repeated Licensing Violations'

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - For 20 years the Ridge View Youth Services Center east of Aurora has provided a home, a school and training for boys who have gotten in trouble with the law. Now
it has closed after the state did not renew the license of the program operators.

Rite of Passage, which ran the program calls it a "school house not a jail house," but now Ridge View is an empty house. The 44 youths sent here are gone. They come to Ridge View through the courts and county human and social services.

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Kevin Lash's son Joey ran away from the facility when he learned Ridge View was closing.

"This was his life, he loved it here it's a normalized environment with this purpose in mind," he said, not knowing where the 17 year old boy is now.

After two decades the state acted to revoke the license of this program for troubled youths citing "concerns over repeated licensing violations."

It claims the program failed to maintain Child Care Licensing Standards. The state Department of Human Services claimed there was "A failure to enforce children's rights to be free from physical abuse or neglect and all forms of sexual exploitation, failure to obtain written authorization from legal guardian or custodian prior to any new psychotropic medication being dispensed, and failure to maintain appropriate supervision of youth in care."

The program told CBS4 that includes allegations that a staff member brought in marijuana, sexting by a female staff member and use of an improper restraint.

Jay Koedam, the program director at Ridge View told CBS4's Rick Sallinger "We have reported those. We have taken action, we have taken action on the employees, and we have taken measures to ensure safety on this campus."

The facility is run by an organization called Rite of Passage. It offers youths sent by the courts and counties a charter school education, vocational training, competition sports and outdoor opportunities.

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Dru Holley was in a gang and got arrested for selling drugs when younger. He says another Rite of Passage program turned him into a video producer.

CBS4 asked him, "Where would you be if you hadn't been here?"

"I'm scared to think where I would be probably locked up," he replied.

State legislators toured Ridge View in a last ditch effort by the program and board to  save it.

State Sen. Chris Hansen, a Democrat from Denver said, "This is a big decision that has been made to not use this facility and not use the programs here, and I really want to understand what is the alternative."

The youths have been sent to a secure lockup to be returned home later or transferred to other community programs. Not only are the kids in Ridge View now gone, but the action is leaving 100 staff members without their jobs.

Among them, Shawna Madden a therapist who said, "I thought this was going to be my forever home, but yes this is a hard situation." Tears then formed in her eyes.

Rite of Passage runs some facilities in different states. It is hoping for a 30 day reprieve to resolve the issues.

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