Massachusetts school takes 18 Crotched Mountain students, others await new placements

  • Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/1/2020 10:28:43 AM

A school in Massachusetts offered to take on 18 Crotched Mountain School students in the wake of Crotched Mountain Foundation’s June announcement that it will close the Greenfield campus by the end of the year. Other students and adult residents are still waiting on alternate placements.

The Guild School in Concord, Massachusetts is a school for children ages six through 21 with mild to severe intellectual disabilities and behavioral, medical, and mental health challenges, including autism. It’s run by the Guild for Human Services and currently serves 85 students and operates eight group homes for youth in Waltham, Watertown, and Billerica, Massachusetts, CEO Amy C. Sousa said. The organization operates an additional 11 group homes for adults.

The Guild received 15 referrals immediately after Crotched Mountain School announced its intent to close, Sousa said. “We took it upon ourselves to open up some more space,” she said, by purchasing and renovating three more houses to accommodate the new students. The housing market’s tight and the COVID-19 pandemic adds a layer of difficulty, but the Guild is aiming to take on new students by October, she said.

Some of the Crotched Mountain students have medical concerns different from the existing student body, Sousa said, but the Guild is working to provide necessary services for the new students. The Guild will begin advertising for staff positions on Monday, and Sousa said she hopes to receive some responses from Crotched Mountain staff to aid the continuity of care.

Joseph Johnson of Boston is the guardian of his teenage grandson Raekwon, who has lived at Crotched Mountain since 2012. A second grandson, Justice, has been at The Guild since 2017. “We know from the tremendous experience Justice has had that The Guild could do an excellent job for Raekwon and all these students at Crotched Mountain,” Johnson said. “The situation for the students at Crotched Mountain is really dire, and their futures would be terribly interrupted if they don’t find a new school and program.” 

Although the Guild’s community-based group home module is different from Crotched Mountain’s large campus, Sousa said she didn’t think the model was necessarily more financially viable than a large campus setting. The Guild supports group homes mostly for their opportunity for more natural community settings, she said, where students can have neighbors and attend community functions.

Sousa said she was happy to be able to accommodate some new students but is “deeply concerned” about the students that are still awaiting placement.

One such student is eight year-old Quinn Lee Davis, whose mother, Elizabeth, is still searching for a new residential facility for her daughter. Crotched Mountain provided families with a list of recommended schools, Davis said, but no school she applied for has accepted Quinn, either due to her age or a lack of resources to provide for her needs. Quinn is on a waitlist for Melmark New England in Andover, Massachusetts, but Davis is now expanding her search beyond New England. “It’s really sad and scary,” Davis said, since she’d originally passed up some of the schools she’s returning to now. “We didn't choose them for a reason,” she said, and the ongoing pandemic means she can’t physically tour campuses and get a gut sense of a place.

Cost, at least, is not factoring in. Quinn’s care is covered by Medicaid and alternative placement agreements with her school district, Davis said, but she was unsure of the situation for families of students with different circumstances.

There are seven people from Southwestern New Hampshire receiving care from Crotched Mountain, Monadnock Developmental Services Executive Director Alan Greene wrote at the end of July, and MDS is working with partnering agencies to determine their new placements.

“It has been heartening to see how quickly folks have stepped up to help untangle the effects of CMRC closing, in fact during the entire COVID-19 pandemic,” Greene wrote in the MDS newsletter. “Together we will meet these challenges. We’ve been doing this very thing for nearly 40 years – and together we’ll continue to develop creative solutions to problems as they arise.”

Crotched Mountain School was unable to be reached for comment.

In mid-July, there were 80 total students and adult residents on the Greenfield campus, down from the 79 students and 26 adult residents on site in June. Crotched Mountain employs about 300 staff, according to campus officials.

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