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Great Circle closes area program for troubled youth

WEBSTER GROVES (AP) — An embattled Missouri residential treatment program for troubled youth that started in 1832 as a home for orphans from the cholera epidemic has closed its doors as the federal government moves away from funding such facilities.

The child welfare and behavioral health organization Great Circle closed the program at 330 North Gore Avenue in Webster Grove on Friday.

Several former employees of the program have been accused of endangering clients. Among them is former CEO Vincent Hillyer, known by some in the industry as the dean of residential treatment in Missouri.

Great Circle was formed in 2009 by the merger of Boys and Girls Town of Missouri and Edgewood Children’s Center. Other Great Circle services in the St. Louis area include an accredited K-12 school, family/parent support, home visiting, foster care case management, autism respite, and in-school therapeutic support, the organization said in a press release.

Great Circle, which relies heavily on government contracts, said it would continue to run four other residential treatment programs in Columbia, Marshall, Springfield and near St. James. But the firm, and others still in the field, face mounting pressure from a new federal law that cracks down on the use of residential treatment centers.

Missouri has yet to publicly outline how these children will be served.

Typically, about 10% of the 14,000 foster children in Missouri would end up in residential treatment at some point. They tend to be trauma victims who have already struggled to maintain placement in multiple foster or adoptive homes.

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