Youth Assessment Center to settle on new site by spring

Youth Assessment Center to settle on new site by spring

CHAMPAIGN — A new location for Champaign County's juvenile-diversion program will be chosen by early spring, its coordinator said Wednesday.

The Youth Assessment Center's current location, a Unit 4-owned building on Randolph Street, will soon get reclaimed by the Champaign school district for office space.

Jonathan Westfield, the center's coordinator and a former Champaign police officer, said Wednesday that YAC officials are considering several locations for the new center and have until March to choose one.

Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz said last month on WDWS that officials were in talks to move the center to the Round Barn complex in west Champaign, near the Secretary of State Driver Services Facility. Specific location details haven't been divulged since then.

Wherever it lands, officials won't have to worry about rent, which Unit 4 hasn't charged. A December donation of $50,000 from sandwich magnate Jimmy John Liautaud and his wife, Leslie, will go toward the first three years of rent.

The center serves as the county's juvenile-diversion program and works to keep children out of the criminal-justice system by connecting them with programs and resources to help them.

It is funded primarily by Champaign County's quarter-cent sales tax for justice initiatives, local municipalities and the mental-health board.

Throughout this year, Westfield said he wants to shift where YAC participant referrals come from. About 10 percent of referrals come from schools, family and the community, he said. And the rest mainly come from law enforcement.

Westfield said he wants to raise that 10 percent to 25 percent within a year. He said he'll be reaching out to local schools to better establish guidelines on how they can use YAC services.