Allies’ Intensive Residential Treatment Services (IRTS) Program transitioned to a new home in a rural part of northern New Jersey this year. The program is approved by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families and provides short-term, out-of-home treatment for male and female adolescents diagnosed with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as a co-occurring mental health diagnosis or crisis.
Program Manager Ay’Asia Kelly was highly instrumental in ensuring that the transition to the new location went smoothly. She coordinated maintenance requests, monitored residents, managed unpacking, and settled everyone in safely. Staff were extremely helpful, pitching in to pack up the home and organize everything once it arrived. While the move was in progress, the IRTS program gained new leadership with the arrival of Tracy Poindijour, MS, our new Program Director, and Tara Prezioso, LCSW, our new Director of Children’s Services. It was an exciting time of new beginnings!
“We are really happy with the IRTS program’s new home,” said Tara. “The residential setting of the home gives us the opportunity to have unique interactions with the children, build rapport and work on treatment goals.”
The new home is equipped to serve five children, typically ages 11 to 18, and is big, open, and bright. It features five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining room, sitting room, brand new kitchen, and a “great room.” The latter room has a wall of windows that allow a lot of natural light in, boosting the mood of its residents and staff alike. Ay’Asia remarked, “The energy in the home is really great!” The surrounding area is quiet and calm, and the large yard features a big deck to enjoy.
“The individual bedrooms and overall space in the home hugely contribute to helping the children learn to self-regulate,” said Tara. “Self-regulating is about bringing ourselves back to a place of control when we’re experiencing all that life throws at us. When a person experiences trauma, like many of these children have, their brain becomes rewired in a way, making it difficult to process a range of emotions appropriately.”
“A large part of what we do here is teach self-regulation – helping kids manage their big feelings when they are angry or sad, and bring them back to a neutral place,” said Tara. “If kids lack those skills, they can act out more frequently. Impulsivity, depression and anxiety are also more prevalent.” Because each child has their own bedroom in the home, it gives them the time away to self-regulate and rest in their own personal space.
The spaciousness of the home and various rooms also supports the children in the house. “If one child is in crisis, there are plenty of other rooms and areas for the other four children to utilize. They can continue to read, do homework, play, and enjoy their own activities,” said Tara.
“I personally love the new home and its set up,” said Tracy. “The children are able to spread out when inside the home, which is important as our kids are often working through some tough challenges. They are enjoying themselves there, they love the basketball net and drawing with chalk in the driveway. We often see the kids and staff cooking together too – we’ve fostered a real family-like environment in the home.”
Tracy shared that the program’s clinical team has some new faces, with the addition of Youth Therapist Odin Tangvald, MA, LAC, NCC and Behavior Therapist Todd Cook, MA. “Odin and Todd have proven to be excellent assets to our program and have made great strides with our residents.”
Odin came to us from SERV Behavioral Health where he was a Residential Program Manager, specializing in crisis assessment and intervention. He is a Licensed Associate Counselor and is currently completing clinical requirements in pursuit of an advanced certification as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Tara remarked, “Odin specializes in crisis intervention and the implementation of coping interventions, grounded in existential therapy. He is quick to establish a rapport with the kids which is critical. He’s also a team player and is able to jump into other roles easily.”
“Todd has a Masters in Applied Behavioral Analysis and brings a ton of experience as a former behaviorist with our parent company Woods Services,” said Tara. “Todd has strong clinical insight, and his ability to establish a rapport and interact with children effectively is really quite impressive,” stated Tara. “He also has a strong interest in therapy and is considering pursuing an additional degree in it. Odin and Todd complement each other so well and are a great fit with our current clinical team.”
Marge Conner-Levin, MSW, Senior V.P. of Health Services for Allies, agrees. “Both Odin and Todd are very effective at deescalating crises and building relationships with the children. They’ve adjusted to their roles so well, and seamlessly blended into our clinical team, which also includes a nurse and a psychiatrist,” said Marge. “We are grateful to have an amazing clinical team and program staff.”
To learn more about how our IRTS Program can support and empower your child and family, please contact Tara Prezioso at email@example.com.
Allies, Inc. is a nonprofit agency dedicated to providing housing, healthcare, meaningful employment and recreational activities to people with special needs in the communities of their choice. To learn more, visit www.alliesnj.org.
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Contact: Nicole Zamerovsky, Director of Communications, Allies, Inc.