Iconic Excelsior youth center shutting after decades in Aurora and roots that go back a century

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AURORA | After more than four decades and a local history that goes back more than a century, Aurora-based  Excelsior, which offers services for youth facing social, emotional and behavioral issues, will end all of its clinical programs and begin a “wind-down” process to end the non-profit organization at the end of November, officials said.

“This was a very difficult decision given the strong legacy of care Excelsior has brought to Colorado since its founding in 1973,” said CEO Susan J. Hébert in a letter to clients and partners of the organization.

Over the past three years Excelsior has transformed from a residential treatment facility to offering a network of community-based services. But now, Hébert said there just isn’t enough funding to keep operating the organization.

“Unfortunately, the costs of operating our programs are not adequately covered by Medicaid ‘fee-for-service’ reimbursement and other more sustainable payer models could not be developed quickly enough to sustain our organization going forward,” Hébert said in the letter. “We understand and deeply regret the impact this decision will have on our communities.”

Programs will continue through November, and Hébert said therapists will work closely with its clients to establish some kind of plan for after the organization shuts its doors.

“It’s an especially challenging time in our state and in our country to sustain the missions of nonprofits serving the growing mental and behavioral health needs of children, youth and families,” Hébert said. “I believe it will take all of us, as leaders in our own state, to champion the cause of our most vulnerable, youngest citizens who deserve their best chances in life for health and wellbeing. More public dollars are needed for early intervention and prevention of childhood and youth trauma, both to save lives and lower the much higher costs of ‘downstream’ services.”

In 2016 alone the organization reported it served 523 youth and nearly 400 families through its programs. Excelsior has held an Aurora address since 1973, but the organization has deep roots in the Denver metro area.

In 1912, the Catholic Order of the Good Shepherd Sisters opened a home for young girls in Denver. There, they would do laundry for the railroad and local hotels. In 1968, the Sisters moved the home to Aurora. But a short five years later the home closed because there weren’t enough resources to keep it running. Then, local community leaders were able to swoop in and save the home. Since the organization evolved into serving both girls and boys up until the age of 24 with an array of services.