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An Introduction -- Who We Are and What's In This Site

Welcome to the home page of the August Aichhorn Center.  The Aichhorn Center was organized as a not-for-profit corporation in New York State in 1977 to serve, to study and to teach about the special problems of providing long-term care and treatment to teenagers who were "unplaceable" in any existing facilities except State hospitals or correctional institutions.  The Center opened a 32-bed RTF in Manhattan in May, 1991, and a second 24-bed RTF in Brooklyn, serving teenagers in custody in the juvenile justice system, in June, 2012.  On April 30, 2020, the New York State Office of Mental Health closed both programs. 

For more information about various aspects of these programs, please go to our programs.

With the end of our direct service efforts, the Center is now moving to address its broader purposes, undertaking to study and teach about the field of residential treatment in order to develop improved operating programs..  How do programs like ours work?  Are they useful or harmful?  Are they effective enough to justify the costs?  These are the questions we now seek to answer, using our three decades of experience in operating programs as the basis for defining and evaluating a program model that addresses the needs of very seriously deprived and impaired adolescents for whom long-term care appears to be the only practical safe and effective approach.

We will report here on the progress of these efforts as they proceed. 

RTF admission appears to reduce subsequent criminal convictions -- data from our earlier follow-up study

In 2001, in cooperation with Dr. Bernard Horowitz of Child Welfare Research and with support from the Child Welfare Fund, we were able to collect and evaluate follow-up information comparing the first 52 adolescents discharged from our RTF with 52 comparable teenagers who were referred to the  RTF by the State Pre-Admission Certication Committee over the same period but were not admitted due to lack of space. This study design was unique in that it included a well matched control group.  Unfortunately, the New York Office of Mental Health, which was firmly opposed to further RTF development, chose not to release data it held.  However, we were able to obtain a comprehensive listing of adult criminal convictions in 13 downstate counties (including the five boroughs of New York City and all of the surrounding  counties in New York State) from the State Office of Court Administration.  These data indicated that while 39% of the RTF "alumni" were convicted of offenses in the period from their 18th birthdays to the time of the study, a full 60% of the group who were referred for treatment but not admitted subsequently were found guilty of criminal conduct during this period.  This result is highly statistically significant, and appears to suggest that individuals who were referred to the Aichhorn RTF for admission were extremely likely to engage in criminal conduct as adults, and that those who were not admitted were about 50% more likely than those who were to eventually face a criminal conviction

This finding was reported in the October, 2001  issue the American Psychiatric Association's journal, Psychiatric Services (Vol.52, No. 10, pp. 1391-92 ).  To view the full text, click here.

Restrictiveness of placement following RTF discharge

The first short working paper based on our current, on-going follow-up of all of the RTF discharges from 1991 through 2000 addresses the restrictiveness of placements just prior to and just after admission to our programs.  It appears that there was a substantial reduction in the restrictiveness of placements after discharge.  You can review it here.

Excess mortality in the RTF population

Investigation so far has documented substantially more deaths than expected in the relatively young RTF population.  We are working to clarify the magnitude and significance of this finding, and expect to prepare a working paper on this finding in the near future.

LINKS -- Aichhorn as others have seen us

New York Magazine ran a brief article on the Aichhorn Center and our RTF in June, 1999.
NY Magazine

Dr. Michael Pawel, Aichhorn's Executive Director, questioned a review entitled "Killer Children," in a letter published by The New York Review in December, 1999.

Fox Butterfield, discussing mentally ill teenagers in the juvenile justice system, referred to the Aichhorn Center in his New York Times article of December 5, 2000.
NY Times

The unexamined psychological issues fueling widespread political disapproval of all group child care are discussed in an essay from by Dr. Pawel published in The Humanist. [Note: downloading this item costs $2.95.]
The Humanist

Dr. Pawel reviews a description of the Broward County Mental Health Court, suggesting that it seems to represent the criminal justice system's recognition that many chronic psychiatric patients will not be treated by the mental health system.   The Forensic Echo .
Child Welfare Watch, Summer, 2009, in a longer article about the difficulties of securing long-term psychiatric care for very disturbed children in the foster care system, includes photos of an alumni reunion, and a discussion of the Aichhorn RTF's outcome study.  See "A Revolving Door of Care," page 20 of the pdf file.
The background of an RTF resident forms the basis for an extended discussion of the scarcity of resources for mentally ill teenagers in the juvenile justice system in the Fall, 2009 issue of Child Welfare Watch.  See "Where the Sick Get Sicker," page 5 of the pdf file.

Another former resident was interviewed in the NY Times neighborhood section.

In 2011, Child Welfare Watch outlined plans for the RTF-Brooklyn.  click here .   Kendra Hurley followed up a year later when the facility opened. click here

Another former resident's memoirs.  Not entirely complimentary, but ...   Yaselin

The Lancet
describes the new RTF-Brooklyn in Rethinking Mental Health Care for Young Offenders.

An excerpt from the Report of the Governor's Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice endorses the RTF-Brooklyn model.


[rev. 2/21/24]