County gets grant for youth facility

Published 10:24 pm Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dallas County will receive a $440,000 grant again this year for Camp Perry Varner Educational Treatment Facility.

The camp works with children ages 12 to 18 who have been referred to Perry Varner by district courts across the region.

This marks the fifth year the camp has received a grant from the Department of Youth Services, according to director Marcus Hannah.

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“I want to commend my staff for the work they do. They are the main reason we get this grant,” said Hannah, who is also director of the Dallas County Juvenile Detention Center.

The camp was originally given $300,000 from youth services but was awarded an increase two years ago as Perry Varner continues to grow.

Campers stay at Perry Varner for at least eight weeks and work on anger management, behavior modification and overcoming drug and substance abuse.

In addition to pursuing grants, Hannah and Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard have been working to recruit neighboring counties to use the camp.

“That money would have been dispersed to other counties if we didn’t have our program in order and were doing the correct things,” Hannah said.

Ballard said the camp and center have grown over the past six or seven years. Before that time, Dallas County was spending more than $300,000 a year to contract with the Hale County Juvenile Detention Center in Greensboro to house juvenile delinquents.

Ballard said that arrangement was expensive and took a toll on the children and their families.

“It was very expensive to say the least, but it was just financial,” Ballard said. “The kids would be sent to Greensboro. Their parents couldn’t visit them. Their siblings couldn’t visit them. Their lawyers couldn’t visit them. It was just an awful situation. I lobbied for it mainly for the humanitarian issue.”

Ballard said the commission supported his idea to build a local center for juveniles.

“I lobbied the commission and they went along with me to build the detention center. As much money as we were paying some other county to house them, we could build our own facilities,” Ballard said.

The camp and center now serve Autauga, Greene Hale, Lowndes, Marengo, Perry, Pickens, Sumter and Wilcox counties in some capacity.