Acadiana Center for Youth Opening Delayed

BUNKIE, La. — The scheduled July opening of the $20.1 million Acadiana Youth Center in Bunkie has been delayed by several months due to the state of Louisiana’s current budget crisis, according to Avoyelles Today. Although the opening has been delayed to September or October, the work has continued, and according to Johnny Qualls, the Office of Juvenile Justice’s regional director, the budget delay will work well with the construction timeline.

The construction contract on the facility with M.D. Descant is not expected to end until October because construction has taken longer due to weather delays and change orders from the state, construction, Qualls told the Bunkie Rotary Club. While construction continues, the state has already started hiring personnel for the youth center and will continue to do so until the facility is opened. The center will hire about 124 employees to work with the youth and run the facility.

Once completed, the 61,000-square-foot Acadiana Center for Youth will feature nine buildings on a more than 20-acre site. These will include an administrative building; a fully staffed medical, dental and mental health suite; a school with both traditional and vocational classrooms; and a gymnasium. The facility will also include three housing buildings with two dormitories each as well as a cafeteria, warehouse, maintenance area and a mechanical building. The facility will serve a maximum 72 youth offenders in need of secure care.

Acadiana Youth Center is designed using the Louisiana Model for Secure Care, which is a therapeutic treatment method modeled after the Missouri Model of youth treatment. The Missouri Model takes a therapy-like approach that creates family-like small groups for the youth, programs that are close to home and the least-restrictive environments possible, while maintaining a secure environment. The model focuses on creating long-lasting change and preparing inmates for a positive life upon release.

Although the Office of Juvenile Justice is hoping to make the move as early as August if possible, it depends on the budget for their next fiscal year, according to Beth Touchet-Morgan, Office of Juvenile Justice spokesperson, in a statement.

The project broke ground in August 2014. Architectural firm Barron, Heinberg & Brocato of Alexandria, La., was selected through a competitive bid process in November 2011. M.D. Descant of Bunkie, La., is completing construction and E.E. Consultants Inc. (also of Alexandria) is serving as the electrical engineer.