Millcreek of Pontotoc helps children, adolescents in need

If you go A ribbon cutting and grand opening for Millcreek of Ripley will be at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. The facility is located in the Northeast Mississippi Business Incubator building in the North Ripley Industrial Park on County Road 565. PONTOTOC – With pictures of U.S. presidents and arts and crafts hanging from the walls, Peggy Garrett’s classroom is typical. It’s her students who are different. “There are some tear-jerkers here that will break your heart,” said Garrett, known as Miss Peg to the boys and girls she teaches. “You leave every day feeling so blessed with what you have. You can’t leave and not feel good, you just can’t.” Garrett is one of seven teachers at Millcreek of Pontotoc, a 51-bed for-profit psychiatric residential treatment facility for troubled children and adolescents. “We have kids who have been sexually abused at 5 years of age,” said CEO Matt Wiltshire. “We’ve got kids who’ve had to eat out of garbage cans, kids who have been kept in cages. You can imagine it takes its emotional toll on a small child.” Residents at Millcreek of Pontotoc, some as young as 6, need constant care that includes therapy, medication and education. “When you have a child with severe problems, we focus on all the different areas,” Wiltshire said. “I think they all three work together.” Operating down the road from Pontotoc’s Walmart since 2000, Millcreek of Pontotoc is now branching out to Tippah County. Millcreek of Ripley will be a day treatment program for troubled children and youths who do not need 24-hour care. It will be housed in the Northeast Mississippi Business Incubator. Duane Bullard, president and CEO of the Tippah County Development Foundation, said the county welcomes the services for “a segment of our population that sometimes gets neglected.” The Ripley operation is Millcreek’s fifth day treatment program in north Mississippi, Wiltshire said. Others are in Starkville, Greenville and Booneville, as well as Pontotoc. “In any one day, we serve 240 kids each day at all of our programs,” he said. “This is a needed service.” The Pontotoc program is the most restrictive. Residents live in three cottages – Magnolia, Grapevine and Dogwood – along with two therapists. The average length of stay is six months. “Generally, when we get children, they have been through a tremendous amount in their lives,” program director Shane Robbins said. “They have been through multiple different placements and treatments.” Millcreek of Pontotoc employs a clinical philosophy that centers on cognitive behavior therapy, which changes counterproductive behaviors to overcome negative feelings and behaviors. In the classroom, success has meant a student going back to their regular school, getting a GED or heading to college, educational director Kay Whitehead said. “We’ve had several kids who have gone to college,” she said, noting that Millcreek is a non-public special school licensed by the Mississippi Department of Education. “Since 2000, we’ve had 20 kids to pass their GED. Nothing succeeds like success.” Contact Ginny Miller at (662) 678-1582 or ginny.miller@djournal.com.

Ginny Miller/Daily Journal