wilderness
wilderness

Fifteen year old Erica suffered from depression, suicidal thoughts and self destructive behavior.

Her parents sought assistance from doctors in helping their daughter, and it had been a counselor and psychiatrist that advised Erica’s parents that they must do more.

The anti-depressants, anti-psychotic and street drugs were a potentially lethal combination.
Erica’s mother spent time researching options, and decided on one of the wilderness-therapy camps available for troubled and/or difficult teens.

The camp promised a fun, camping experience, in which Erica would have an adventure while stopping the illegal drug use.

On the first day of Erica’s camp arrival, she was dead that evening, and not from suicide.

There are almost no regulations in place concerning the wilderness boot camps/treatment camps.

In 2007, the GAO documented thousands of reports detailing the abuse and neglect and ten deaths at these camps nationwide.

To read about Erica’s story :

http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2009-11-05/news/losing-erica-cynthia-clark-harvey-doesn-t-want-anyone-else-s-child-to-die-in-a-wilderness-therapy-program/1

From the article:

“The programs are huge moneymakers, because the overhead is so low. Some don’t even require a high school degree for so-called “therapists.” Because much of the program involves camping, there are no facilities to pay for. The food served isn’t great.
There is no research to show any of what goes on at these camps works. No peer-reviewed journal articles, no controlled studies. Just anecdotal testimony from parents and kids — some of which has been paid for.” (pg 2)

“The GAO investigated many deaths in “therapy” programs, including:

• A 16-year-old girl from Virginia who died of a massive head trauma at a camp in Utah. She fell while hiking on Christmas Day. The staff had reportedly not scouted the dangerous area and didn’t have medical equipment. It took paramedics an hour to arrive.

• A 14-year-old boy from Texas who died of hyperthermia (overheating) at a Utah camp. He had difficulty hiking and sat down, then fainted and lay motionless. A staff member hid behind a tree for 10 minutes to see if the boy was faking before discovering he had no pulse. The boy died soon afterward.

• A 15-year-old boy from California who died at a Missouri boot camp/boarding school, probably as a result of complications from a spider bite. Despite showing signs of medical distress for days, the program’s medical staff said the boy was faking — and because he was weak and couldn’t exercise, he was forced to wear a 20-pound sandbag around his neck.

……. also documented are cases of girls forced to give lap dances as part of their therapy, and another girl told to cover herself in dirt to symbolize the fact that as a rape victim, she was dirty.” (pg 2)

Parents pay out thousands of dollars in seeking help at these camps, and rarely does health insurance cover or help with the costs.

From the article :

“So far, there’s been no action in the U.S. Senate.
And even if there is, the sad truth is that a federal law might not do much. The U.S. House legislation is modeled largely after a state law in Oregon, the location of the most recent death at a wilderness-therapy camp, in August.” (pg. 3)

These are not adults paying $9-$10,000 and signing waivers for sweat lodges in Sedona.
As the Phoenix New Times article details, these are loving parents entrusting the lives of their children to people who advertise these therapeutic camps.

Shouldn’t our government have regulations for the camps to protect the parents and their children?

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I am a retired aerospace engineer, happily married for over twenty-four years. My hobbies include blogging on PPOV, reading mystery/romance novels, playing guitar, learning the piano and writing. My husband and I love to travel in our camper/trailer, and have visited 45 states, besides having lived in France for 2 years and seeing most of Europe. "Today is the first day of the rest of your life? Well, that's true of every day but one - the day you die." American Beauty "All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure." Mark Twain "A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar." Mark Twain

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BigDogMom
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BigDogMom

javaz, another great post! I’ve read very little on these wilderness camps, this is shocking that they are not regulated and do not licensed practitioners onsite, I assumed that they would.

I’m suprised that these camps have gone on this long unregulated after the number of deaths and cases of abuse there have been. This is tragic….

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KQµårk 死神
Member

Great topic.

Frankly I have very little knowledge about boot camps and how well they work. I only caught part of a documentary a while ago.

I feel bad for parents who have to raise difficult teenagers. My brother who is 10 years older than me was one of those trouble teenagers but he ended up volunteering for real boot camp and his ass ended up in Vietnam which left him much more fucked up for years.

Government should highly regulate any organization that is charged with the custody of minors. In fact the problem is these boot camps should be government run, not privately run.

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Corgi Lover
Guest

My brother, who wasn’t difficult per say, went into the Navy in 1968 or 69, served multiple tours off of VietNam on a tin can. He went in a shit and an asshole (sorry, it’s the way it is) and he came out probably a bigger one. No character improvement.

Me, I have been told I would have been one of those people they made an example of in real bootcamp, and then probably chased out. Real authority problem. Luckily my draft number was high in 1972 and I stayed in school. But I don’t have the “union card” that right wingers think all patriots (except Dick Cheney) ought to have.

There is no disrespect for those who served, my best friend was in-country in 1965-6. And one of our good members here is a solid veteran and I respect him very much.

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KQµårk 死神
Member

Wars wounds go far beyond the physical scars. It took years and years for me and my brother to connect on a regular basis.

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Corgi Lover
Guest

KQuark: I knew that after my mother passed away, any remaining vestiges of “family” would be gone. Last year I talked to him twice, this year once. He is not receptive. It is the way it is. I accept that.

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escribacat
Member

Your brother sounds a lot like one of my brothers. After Vietnam, he spent years in my parents’ basement and now lives in a small house in the middle of nowhere, nursing all his various paranoias and hatreds (mostly of Mexicans).

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kesmarn
Admin

Good point, KQuark. The CCC camps of the thirties did amazing things as far as turning kids’ lives around. And that wasn’t even the main reason they were created! They were really a jobs/economic program that just happened to give kids decent food, clean housing, lots of fresh air, meaningful work, a sense of helping their families back home, and a sense of community in the camp itself. Lo and behold–improved mental health. Go figure.

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KQµårk 死神
Member

It’s a good idea to promote structure and a sense of civic responsibility within all youths. President Obama’s new national service program is a good step in this direction. It’s amazing how the right wing is trying to demonize such a good program.

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Corgi Lover
Guest

If you missed it, PBS American Experience did the CCC camps this last week.

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kesmarn
Admin

Whew! Just got back home. Long day. (Day “off”?)
I missed the PBS story on the CCC program. Hope I can catch it online.

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nellie
Member

What’s especially sad to me about this situation is the cynicism displayed on the part of the camp staff — assuming a child is faking and therefore offering no help. It’s a mindset that seems to be shared by the parents — send the difficult child off for tough treatment.

Aside from the fact that these places are poorly staffed and managed, the idea of boot camps to solve any kind of distress seems completely irresponsible. If people are in distress, they need relief — not more distress. Counseling is a very complex field. Even professionals can mess up. In this situation, the camps are just asking for trouble.

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KQµårk 死神
Member

Sending youths to any kind of detention camp as a punishment is the kind of nihilistic approach conservatives love. While we spend tens of thousands sending kids to boot cams and keeping people incarcerated in some way, conservatives don’t want to spend one more dime on education or counseling. It’s always more expensive and less fruitful when we react to problems in society rather than trying to prevent them. But then again like K7 always says conservatives revel in being reactionary.

Again the root of almost every problem in America is our inability to dispel conservative philosophy as an utter failure.

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escribacat
Member

I remember when my mother sent me off to a day camp in the mountains when I was 13. She just wanted me out of her hair, being the problem that I was. All the full-time kids there just wanted to know if I could start bringing some joints.

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KQµårk 死神
Member

That is fucking hilarious. I could tell you stories but that would be TMI.

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escribacat
Member

Hehe. Sounds intriguing. It’s almost never TMI in my book.

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Pepe Lepew
Member

Oh, I personally know of someone who had a weird experience with this. This was a boss of mine about 10 years ago who was having a lot of problems with a teenage son — shoplifting, dope, dealing at school, involved on the periphery of a couple burglaries, helping friends cover up a mugging, etc. Finally, he got in real trouble for making death threats at school. She signed him up for something called Obsidian Trails, in Oregon, a wilderness “boot camp.” A couple of weeks after she signed him up, a kid died at Obsidian Trails. So she switched him to Outward Bound.

Well, he came back more pissed off and angry and resentful than ever. He had been expelled from the one school and so had to attend another. He got expelled from there for ditching class, being high at school and finally getting caught carrying a weapon on campus. Eventually, they had to hire a tutor so he could get his GED from home.

My point is, she almost sent the kid to a camp that killed a kid (It was eventually shut down), then when she did send him off to a wilderness camp, it didn’t magically turn him around. He had all the same problems as before and if anything, it just made him more angry. I don’t believe any of these camps do anything for kids, especially if you’re forcing them into it. They’re pitched to desperate and in my opinion, oftentimes lazy parents, who want a quick, magic bullet to save their kids. My criticism of my boss is that she somehow thought boot camp was going to be the answer, when ultimately if the kid was going to be turned around, it was up to her and his dad.

She left my workplace soon after this and I really have no idea how it all turned out for her and her kid ultimately.

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Corgi Lover
Guest

Javaz, there are a lot of “organizations” out there claiming to do therapy whose only real ability is marketing to people who are desperate, whether they be the parents of a child, the actual person with the issues, or others trying to be “helpful”. Personally, I’m suspect of most of them, but then again, I haven’t seen a lot of really effective professional licensed councelors, either. But yes, they should be licensed and monitored and not just be allowed to operate in an uncontrolled manner.

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nicole473
Member

And parents should behave responsibly and check out ANY facility to which they entrust their children, including the credentials of those employed by the program.

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