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U-Turn Project Offers Help For Troubled Teens
Safe Space
uturn project
Melinda Screeton, the powerhouse advocate behind the U-Turn Project, shares the starting point for the new meeting place designated for the project, donated by the United Methodist Church. The U-Turn Project meetings are free and open to the public with no expectation of church affiliation. Screeton plans to transform the space into a teen safe space. KIM VAN METER/THE LEADER

Melinda Screeton, the powerhouse advocate behind the vision to build a local recovery house for addicts seeking help, has found another gaping resource hole when it comes to people in crisis — helping troubled teens.

The U-Turn project is geared toward creating a safe space for teens in the community currently in crisis and struggling to find resources, encouragement, and guidance during a turbulent time in their lives.

The idea is to build a support network for drug/alcohol rehabilitation that focuses on mental health and wellness, not punitive discipline.

“If we could get them when they're young, they're going to grow and they're not going to become, you know, the person on the corner that you see that you don't know what their life was like so,” Screeton said.

The U-Turn Project will hold weekly recovery workshops on Thursdays, 7-9 p.m. starting Aug. 5 through Sept. 8 featuring two powerful speakers per evening who are in recovery and have turned their lives around, sharing hope to those who need it the most.

For Screeton, the shocking deficit in the current services available became apparent when she tried to help a teen in serious crisis but after running through every possible city and county resource, the teen was sent off with a handful of pamphlets and a vague suggestion to return in three months’ time.

Asking anyone to wait three months for desperately needed help is a recipe for tragedy, Screeton said, adding, “Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children, ages 10 to 24. That’s serious.”

Drug abuse is often the symptom of a much-deeper problem that’s buried in emotional pain. Healing the drug addict requires healing the wounds that created the ripe environment for abuse in the first place but finding help is a challenge.

And the crisis is only worsening as resources become more scarce in the Central Valley.

“Right now there's a lot of fentanyl coming across the borders. I know more people that have overdosed in this last year than I've known in my whole life. My daughter, who's 19 years old, has friends from junior high school that are overdosing and dying right now.”

There are many programs available in the Bay Area but gaining access to the those resources is unrealistic for young teens stuck in a small town and Screeton wants to see that change.

Support for the U-Turn project came from unexpected but wholly welcome sources, such as Pastor Jeff Holder with the United Methodist Community Church.

When Holder first approached Screeton, he didn’t start with his vocation, but rather his personal story and why he believed in Screeton’s vision. “He told me that he knows that he also is supposed to be doing more work in his life and he's not sure where that is and we connected. He really has a passion to help people. It's not about the church because underneath every religion, Buddhist, Christian, whatever you are, it's all the same and it's all love.”

Holder opened up a space within the church to serve as the U-Turn’s official meeting space, without any expectation that the participants attend church or even be a member of the Methodist congregation.

The U-Turn Project is registered nonprofit and free to anyone in need. It’s a safe place for teens to find help, listen to those who are also struggling, and discover that hope is on the horizon.

For more information on the U-Turn Project, email