The departure of Dr. Mel Rose left Sentinel Butte’s Home On The Range (HOTR) with big shoes to fill. Assuming the new executive director role is Laura Feldmann, who took over March 15.

Prior to her current position, Feldmann was the clinical director for Home On The Range for the past five years, according to a HOTR press release.

Dr. Rose said in an email that the ranch had the ability to fill her position with someone internal to the organization.

“HOTR is very fortunate to have outstanding staff and the ability to possibly fill this position with an internal candidate,” Rose said.

The press release said that Feldmann has certifications in various therapeutic programs. She is also a certified trainer in what she refers to as “The Restorative Approach” — which involves treating behavioral infractions as opportunities to build foundational relational and behavioral skills.

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“(When) one of the girls was bullying somebody else about something they can’t do well... a restorative task might be something where the kid who was getting bullied teaches the bully kid a new game that she knows how to play that the other kid doesn't,” Feldmann said. “Or maybe the kid that was bullying talks to the other kid... and does an interview about what bullying does, what that feels like, who that affects, how that affects other people.”

Feldmann said the old point and level system doesn’t work in the real world, and emphasizes the building and maintaining of relationships.

Rose noted that HOTR works with young people who lack “foundational skills,” such as controlling their emotions.

“The underlying premise here is that kids do well if they can versus kids do well if they want to. The youth in our care often lack rudimentary skills needed to effectively manage their emotions, forge healthy connections and feel good about themselves and their abilities,” Rose said. “Until these foundational skills are squarely in place, many of the tasks these youth are asked to tackle are quite simply beyond their ability, through no fault of their own.”

Habilitation, not rehabilitation, is HOTR’s goal, according to its website.

Rose also said she believes focusing on rehabilitation rather than habilitation when dealing with troubled youths, is to fail to see the bigger picture.

HOTR is the only “qualified residential treatment program” to have three different forms of what she called “experiential treatment modalities,” including but not limited to equine therapy, Rose added.

Equine assisted therapies involve the maintaining and grooming of a horse or dog to help people who are undergoing mental health issues.

Equine and canine are among Feldmann’s many certifications.

“Many of the kids at Home on The Range, haven’t had the opportunity to build safe relationships with other human beings, so animals act as a close second,” Feldmann said. “For our kids, a 1,200-pound (animal) is typically a lot safer than any human... They’re not going to abandon them, they’re not going to neglect them, they’re not going to beat them. So teaching relationship skills through a dog or a horse is so powerful."

Feldmann said she’s seen miracles occur in the barn. Kids have had major breakthroughs via the bonds they’ve built with the animals they serve.

After completing their treatment, Feldmann said she has had kids request to return and see their horses. In addition to that, Feldmann said she had one young lady ask Feldmann to be a job reference for her. Feldmann said this girl was in college and seemed to be doing well.