PUBLISHED: 1:16 PM on Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Raven's Way helps youth conquer substance abuse
SITKA - Winter can be a vulnerable time for adolescents, especially those who have had problems with substance abuse. Depression, seasonal affective disorder and boredom all can trigger an increase in drug and alcohol use during the winter months.

The Raven's Way program in Sitka, run by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, is a nationally accredited residential treatment program for Alaska youth ages 13-18 that combines conventional substance abuse and mental health treatment with adventure-based therapy and Alaska Native cultural activities. Raven's Way uses a holistic approach to develop each young person's physical, emotional, mental and spiritual strengths, giving them the tools to choose a healthy, substance-free lifestyle.

"Early intervention can help keep young people on the right track, and protect their developing minds, bodies and spirits," said Dr. Anita Didrickson, PhD, the SEARHC Raven's Way Coordinator. "If adolescents learn healthy life skills when they're young, they can be our strong community leaders tomorrow."

Parents, community service providers, health councils, probation officers, schools and others can refer Alaska youth to the Raven's Way program, which is voluntary. Young people in the program must have a primary diagnosis of substance abuse or dependence, but many students also have co-occurring problems such as depression, hyperactivity, or other emotional and conduct problems. The cost of treatment is covered by the Indian Health Service, Medicaid, private insurance or grant funding, making treatment accessible to families of all income levels.

The 40-day program is based in Sitka and nearby wilderness sites. Students live in a family-style environment with 8-10 students. The program includes a comprehensive behavioral health assessment, individual and group counseling, substance abuse education, academics, a wilderness expedition and ropes course, and activities relevant to Alaska Native cultures (85 percent of past students have been Alaska Native). Past Raven's Way students have come from 134 Alaska communities, and 82 percent completed the program. In follow-up interviews a year after finishing, 90 percent reported using less or no alcohol and 89 percent reported using less or no drugs than they had before entering Raven's Way, while 68 percent reported an improved legal status. Past students also reported marked increases in productive activities, such as returning to school or work.

Raven's Way is accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. The Raven's Way academic program is accredited through the Sitka School District. Medical and behavioral health support is available through SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, which is accredited through the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. The Raven's Way staff is licensed and certified.

For more information, contact the SEARHC Raven's Way intake specialist at 966-8716 in Sitka or toll-free in Alaska at 1-800-770-3063, or by e-mail at Information about Raven's Way can be found on the Web at The next program sessions start Nov. 7, and Jan. 9.