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Boys Town Residential Treatment Center Turns 25


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

​​​On December 26, 1995, when most of the city was enjoying their holiday presents, Boys Town was overjoyed to give the best gift of all – the gift of a brighter, healthier future for children in need. This year, Boys Town Residential Treatment Center (RTC)​ is proud to be celebrating 25 years of second chances!

A History of Changing the Way America Cares for Children and Families

In the early 1990s, Boys​ Town's leaders saw a nationwide need for a unique behavioral health service to help youth who were not successful in the programs being offered at the time. Calling on the organization's expertise and experience with youth care and medical care, the team formed a new model that focused on medically directed behavioral health treatment, specifically for ages 5 to 17.

“What makes our program unique is that it is a program created for kids – a place with bright colors, high ceilings, indoor and outdoor recreational facilities, home-like living facilities, all staffed with individuals specifically trained to care for the mental and behavioral needs of kids,” Dennis Vollmer, Director of the RTC said.

​​​​​​​​Boys Town RTC has served 3,000 children from 7 countries and 30 states

25 Years of Life-Changing Care

Boys Town Residential Treatment Center

The success of the child-tailored, research-based model led to incredible growth. What began as a 20-bed facility at the downtown Boys Town Hospital grew to 30 beds within a few years. In the early 2000s, the RTC reached full capacity at 47 beds. In October of 2013, a new 36-bed facility opened on Boys Town Campus. Four years later, the RTC expanded to the 80-bed RTC it is today.

25 Years of Life-Changing Results

The children who come to the RTC receive a safe and beautiful temporary home, a second chance and the knowledge that there is a group of people at Boys Town Hospital who believe they are good kids with valuable futures. These simple gifts produce life-changing results.

Since opening its doors, the RTC has logged 500,00 patient days, serving 3,000 youth from 30 states and seven countries. Twelve months after leaving the RTC, 85 percent of youth are either in school or have graduated. Under the leadership of Douglas Spellman, M.D., highly trained staff review each youth’s medication regimen and adjust psychotropic prescriptions to ensure the child is receiving the appropriate medication for optimal mental and physical health.

“This is the place where children with backgrounds of abuse, aggression and unstable homes can get the treatment they need and find hope in their lives," Dr. Spellman said. “We give them a safe and secure environment where they can begin to make positive changes to learn better self-control and social skills."

And it’s not just the youth who reap the benefits of th​is unique program.

“One of my greatest joys of being here over the last 25 years is seeing youth that come here very sad, very disgruntled, and then see them in six weeks or a couple months, leaving the RTC extremely happy,” said Pat Connell, Boys Town Healthcare Policy Advocate. “It really brings joy to my heart and I’m so grateful we’ve been able to help so many kids.”

The Work Continues

Despite the incredible success of the RTC’s 25 years, there is still much to be done. Even with the facility’s rapid growth, there continues to be a waiting list for the program. The behavioral health team continues to update its evidence-based intervention methods to stay on the leading edge of behavioral health care for children with help from programs like the Boys Town Center for Neurobehavioral Research in Children, which strives to learn more about how childhood trauma can impact brain development and function.

As Father Flanagan said, “The work will continue, you see, whether I am there or not, because it is God’s work, not mine.” For 25 years, the RTC has proven this to be true; and we are thrilled to see what these dedicated employees can accomplish as the program continues.