Revamped Miller House to open

Posted: Sunday, April 09, 2000

A new center offering expanded services for juveniles with emotional and behavior disorders is scheduled to open Friday.

The new Miller House, located near Montana Creek, replaces an aging facility of the same name near the Mendenhall Mall. The long-term coed residential treatment center for youths ages 12 to 19 has been shoehorned for decades into a former orphanage built in 1941 as a private home.

``Miller House has had a lot of wear and tear since the Receiving Home (its predecessor) opened in 1961,'' said Charles S. ``Chuck'' Bennett, executive director of JYS, as he gave a preview tour of its replacement. ``It was hard to accommodate 16 kids and three to five staff there.''

Although he is awed by the complexity of building from scratch, Bennett is pleased with the result of creating a one-story, 6,600-square foot facility near Montana Creek.

``It's really nice to sit down with architects and create what you need - not have to adapt an existing structure,'' Bennett said.

The new Miller House sits on 10 acres acquired as part of a 152-acre tract in 1995, where a five-structure treatment ``campus'' is planned. The cost of the new Miller House was $1.1 million. The largest sum came from the Mental Health Trust, with slack taken up by numerous small grants and JYS funds.

The replacement was designed by Jensen Yorba Lott.

``We've built this to commercial standards, but tried to make it feel like a residence,'' said Steve Krall, project manager.

The structure includes six bedrooms and two large handicapped-accessible bathrooms. A commons area features a living room, dining area, kitchen, study area, office, a classroom/activity room big enough to build kayaks, laundry facilities, pantry, storage and counseling rooms.

Commercial aspects of the building include a fully automated fire suppression system, an air exchange, a heat recovery system, circulating hot water in the floors to lower utility costs, a utility room with mop sink and a massive stove exhaust.

The existing Miller House will become space for JYS's emergency services and outreach programs.

``It will almost double their space,'' Krall said, ``so we will be able to expand services.'' JYS serves 700 clients a year, many of whom require multiple visits. Krall expects the total to increase 20 percent during the next year.

JYS always has a waiting list, Bennett said.

``A lot of kids are so needy,'' he said. ``They may need to get to class, their family may need counseling in the evening, they may need individual counseling themselves. Whatever the need, we try to wrap around and provide the service.''

The goal for JYS is to complete the $9.1 million campus in five years. It will include two additional residential treatment homes, a school with four classrooms and a combination mental health clinic/administrative building.

At the first building on site, the new Miller House, Krall is awaiting final details, such as a container of furniture and a pending Army Corp of Engineers wetlands permit to fill in some damp areas.

Although the new Miller House may seem a bit out of the way at 10685 Back Loop Road, ``As Juneau grows, this will become a more central location than it is today,'' Krall said.

Facilities that house juveniles ``are not everybody's first choice for neighbors,'' he said, ``so we wanted a site that has good buffers. If, as we develop, we put up a basketball court outdoors, we don't want complaints from people that their 4-year-olds can't sleep.''

JYS is hosting an open house for the new facility from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. For more information call Colleen McKenzie at 789-9103.

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