By Will Cushman

Lance Horozewski leads Rock County's public agency that connects families and children to the support services they need. One difficult element of his work requires connecting particularly vulnerable kids to residential care centers where they can safely receive treatment for complex mental and emotional health needs.

In an ideal world, Horozewski and the county's Division of Children, Youth and Families would find local facilities. In a less ideal but still acceptable scenario, he would look to place children within a short drive from their homes in southern Wisconsin. In reality, though, Horozewski is forced to send many children more than 600 miles south to a facility outside of Memphis, Tennessee.

"Definitely, it's a problem," Horozewski said. And it's a problem that extends beyond Rock County.

Horozewski's department began having more difficulty placing children with complex mental health needs in facilities in Wisconsin around 2015. It has become especially difficult to secure beds for kids who require the most complex care, he said, including children with aggression and who are at high risk for suicide.

Many of the children from Rock County requiring complex care have been sent to Youth Villages near Memphis. While Horozewski is satisfied with the care they've received there, he said the sheer distance children are being sent from their homes in Wisconsin can create a barrier for lasting change.

"They're very disconnected," Horozewksi said, whether it be from their families or from local treatment and transition services.