TECUMSEH – Governor Mary Fallin and officials with the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) on Wednesday broke ground on the first phase of a project to build a state-of-the art therapeutic campus for young people requiring secure-care treatment.

The next generation campus will be built on the grounds of the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Tecumseh. Campus buildings will be refurbished and new residential cottages will be built. The project will be undertaken in stages, with final work to be completed by the end of 2020.

When the project is completed, the Tecumseh campus will serve as the single secure-care facility operated by OJA.

Girls from an 18-bed Norman center were transferred to the Tecumseh campus in August. Boys in the 60-bed Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Manitou will eventually be transferred to the Tecumseh campus.

Plans are to build up to nine 16-bed cottages that will provide new living quarters for all the residents. OJA has the flexibility to scale back the project if the number of juveniles coming into the system continues to decline as it has in recent years.

“By having this one centralized facility, OJA will address technology inefficiencies, improve medical and treatment services, provide equitable education for all youth placed in secure facilities, and save money in transportation and travel,” said Fallin.

In 2017, lawmakers approved and Fallin signed legislation authorizing up to $45 million in bonds to help the agency consolidate its secure-care operations in an updated facility in Tecumseh. The agency is funding the project with money that it has saved through efficiencies.

The OJA board earlier this year approved $2.65 million in initial funding to prepare for the construction of the campus and to start work on support projects. The new campus will provide a much more therapeutic environment, OJA Executive Director Steven Buck said.

“This next generation campus demonstrates our state’s commitment to providing secure, juvenile justice services in a setting specifically built to facilitate rehabilitation for young people needing this level of care,” said Buck, who also serves on Fallin’s executive Cabinet as secretary of health and human services. “I appreciate the governor and members of the House and Senate for their support in this innovative project.

“The new campus will also provide safety for our employees, all while being fiscally creative and responsive to the taxpayers. This new facility will create efficiencies and cost savings, and OJA will require no increase in state appropriations to fund construction or improvements.”