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WILDERNESS PROGRAM HELPS YOUTHS

As the parent of a self-destructive teen, I am particularly interested in effective intervention programs. Much like a toddler running lickety-split into oncoming traffic, a teen dabbling with abusive substances or flirting with illegal social activities or displaying increasingly violent behavior on the homefront must be immediately pulled out of the dangerous situation.

For parents, this is much easier said than done. The quickest answer is to simply remove the troublemaker from the home. However, there is a trend in courts across the country to hold parents financially, morally and physically responsible for the anti-social and/or self-destructive actions of their under-18 offspring.Where can parents turn for help with their teens? Intervention programs are a burgeoning industry. Unfortunately, most are ineffective, prohibitively expensive or both.

According to the latest independent research, about 80 percent of the adolescents who complete such programs will, within a year, relapse and return to drugs.

There is an exception: the intervention program known as wilderness experience learning. This concept originated in Utah and has reversed the 80 percent failure rate of traditional therapeutic intervention programs into an 80 percent success rate. I know from firsthand experience what such a program can do to intercede in and turn around a self-destructive teen's life.

My youngest and first adopted son was born with severe physiological problems. He suffers from fetal alcohol effects and attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity and oppositional-defiant disorder.

When puberty hit, his frustration and anger levels went right through the roof. Along with them went any marginal coping abilities he had accrued in his life. When he became violent and our local school district in Oregon refused to admit him, I placed him with North Star Expeditions.

This wilderness program, based in Escalante, came highly recommended from other parents with incorrigible teens, whose children had graduated from the high desert country school with a whole new attitude about life and what they could accomplish without resorting to gross and malicious manipulation of family, friends and society.

My son also graduated with a true sense of worth, having learned acceptable ways to communicate anger, and is back in the public school system - which I never thought possible for him again.

How threatened I felt as a parent when the state attorney general's office invaded the North Star offices this past week, with the express purpose of shutting down its operations on the apparent strength of a few misinformed voices and the unsubstantiated innuendos of student treatment by a disgruntled former employee.

As Utahns, we should be proud of having nurtured the birth of a truly effective intervention program in this day and age. Surely this industry, given the rapidly increasing need in our society for such an effective option, should be encouraged to grow.

Not only do the wilderness experience programs offer the only consistently effective intervention program for youths at risk, but they generate a sizable economic impact on the communities where they are situated.

Before a state agency goes off half-cocked, shooting a new and much-needed industry in the foot, causing incalculable harm to both individuals and the economy, as a parent and a citizen I ask that it expend the energy to get an accurate view of the workings of wilderness experience schooling.

Anita Holmes

New Harmony