Over the years, the Sitka-based Raven's Way program has earned national and international recognition while treating youth ages 13-18 from 143 communities throughout Alaska who have substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders.
This blending of students from different regions of the state and the use of teaching methods particularly suited for Native youth is one of the hallmarks of the program.
Students spend 40 days in the program, living in a small, family style community of 8-10 students. Treatment is provided in Sitka, on nearby Biorka Island, and on backpacking and kayaking expeditions in the Tongass National Forest.
"Early intervention is particularly important to protect the developing minds, bodies and spirits of these young people, and to help them become positive leaders for their communities," Raven's Way Program Coordinator Anita Didrickson said.
The Raven's Way program has one of the best documented success rates of any youth treatment program in the Indian Health Service system.
The program has an 83-percent completion rate, and 96 percent of the students said they were satisfied with the treatment they received. In follow-up interviews a year after entering the program, 90 percent of the former students were using less or no alcohol compared to before treatment and 89 percent were using less or no drugs.
The former students also reported significant increases in productive activity, improved personal relationships, improved legal status and an improved sense of connectedness or spirituality.
During their one-year anniversary follow-up interviews, former students reported other successes, such as winning state sports championships, being elected student council president, going to college, being recommended as a juvenile justice representative, participating in subsistence activities and starting new careers.
"I have been impressed with how well the Raven's Way program builds the strengths of students and addresses multiple behavioral and emotional problems in a short period of time," Didrickson said.
"It is a powerful intervention that can be a turning point in a young person's life."
For more information on the Raven's Way program, contact the program's intake office at 966-8716 or on the Web go to http://www.searhc.org/ravensway/.