The Sapling Center
- Need: To create a safe space for youth and young adults, ages 14 to 25, in rural eastern Kentucky.
- Intervention: The Sapling Center provides independent living skills education and offers a wide array of services as well as fun activities in a supportive environment.
- Results: The Sapling Center serves 50-75 teens and young adults every day. Increasing demand for services led to the opening of more centers in the region.
According to a 2017
KET (Kentucky Educational Television) article, young
adult homelessness in Kentucky is increasing, with 18- to
24-year-olds as the fastest-growing segment of the
homeless population. In addition, Kentucky is seeing
record numbers of youth in foster care, due in part to
the opioid epidemic.
To provide a safe, supportive environment
for teens and young adults, Kentucky River Community
Care, a community mental health center, created the
Sapling Center in June 2016. This drop-in safe space
provides free services like counseling, life skills
training, and fun activities for anyone aged 14 to 25.
The goal of the center is to assist youth and young
adults in transitioning successfully into and through
adulthood by developing self and community advocacy. The
centers are youth-led, and activities such as the monthly
community service projects are decided by the youth. Most
of the participants at each center have personal or
family issues such as homelessness, addiction, and mental
There are Sapling Center locations in 6 rural
Centers are run by behavioral health therapists,
Community Support Associates, and Youth Peer Support
Specialists. All center services are free and include:
- Arts and crafts
- Computer lab
- Crisis & Information Hotline: 1.800.262.7491
- Life skills training
- Monthly community service volunteer projects
- Personal items like clothing and hygiene products for
those in need
- Referral to primary care, behavioral health, and
dental care as needed
- Transportation to and from the center
and substance use support groups
Professional services at the centers are also available
and include behavioral health and substance use therapies
and individual professional services by Youth Peer
Support staff and Community Support Associates.
The Sapling Centers serve 50-75 teens and young adults
every day. Many of the centers' attendees participate in
group and individual counseling, including substance use
sessions in addition to Youth Peer Support and Community
Support Associate services.
The Sapling Center was featured in a
2017 Daily Yonder article.
Opening the centers posed few barriers, since the
communities welcomed options for youth and the schools
saw them as an immediate resource. Obtaining some grant
money to offset costs of facility repairs and furnishing
the space was the primary challenge.
To replicate the Sapling Center, start with the youth.
Create a youth council to make design decisions, suggest
staffing plans, determine hours of operation, make
choices about food, and generally voice what they need to
Children and youth
Community engagement and volunteerism
February 28, 2018
Date updated or reviewed
June 19, 2023
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub,
The Sapling Center [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at:
[Accessed 24 February 2024]
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about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The
programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural
community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s
needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep
in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.