Contact us Monday through Friday 8:00am CST to 4:30pm CST at 715-327-4402

Seizing the Light


The light dances off the surface of the crystalline surface.

Light penetrates the recesses of the hollow spots.

The hidden bright spots can be found in surprising spots if the light is right.

This is Seizing the Light.

We hosted an artist reception to celebrate the opening of Seizing the Light, a new exhibit featuring the work of our Prairieview kids. Molly, their artistic director, who infuses art therapy into her work with the kids, “This show captured the beauty of the way the light dances on the blank canvases of snow, the warm neutral tones of the winter brush, and the sparkle of the ice crystals.”

You can see the full show at the In a New Light Gallery located at 7417 N Bass Lake Road in Webster, Wisconsin. Our gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., stop by anytime!

Excerpts from the latest show:

“Thoughts” by Candus, 15

“Cold and frozen, brittle and broken, lost yet found, beautiful they say but self-conscious deep down inside, hidden but right in the center, hurt but smiling because I’m still trying …”

“What’s on the Inside” by Malia, 16

“No one in this world will ever be able to figure out what one person is like unless they put in the time and effort to get to know them. People are absolutely incredible and completely one-of-a-kind.”

“Angel” by Sidney, 16

“Haze” by Beaux, 13

“If you want to know who you are, you have to look at your real self and acknowledge what you see”-Itachi Uchiha

“Neglect” by Anonymous, 15

“Neglect. Broken, hurt. Crying, suffering, damaging. Dad, beer, contact, love. Laughing, hugging, smiling. Fulfilled, joy. Attention.”

“Fear Has No Power Over You” by Jazzlyn, 16

“Fear is an emotion, it can’t hurt you, touch you, or hold power over you. You’re in control of your emotion, especially your fears.”

Winter Games Come to Passage!

The spirit of the Olympics spread throughout the building as a part of a staff-initiated effort!

Walking through the halls of Prairieview and Assessment the last few weekends you’d have heard a lot more laughter and bustle coming from the units. Kids and staff alike were all in on the Olympic games this year thanks to some above and beyond effort from the weekend direct care providers. “The Olympics are a special time where the whole world stops and comes to gather to celebrate what humanity can accomplish despite our differences. We wanted to make sure the kids had an opportunity to learn about different cultures represented at the games, celebrate diversity and unity, and most importantly just have fun!” Amanda Leckel, weekend staffer explains. Adam Parker, added, “We included activities for all levels, the arts, education, and even ethnic foods in the planning.” Adam, “And of course, a little healthy completion.”

Five units competed in a variety of contests like those listed below and earned points across three weekends. And it was a hit! Adam says of the Passage Winter Games, “I loved seeing the kids cheer one another on during the competition. It made everything we did to make these events happen worth it. We know how important relationships are to these kids and any chance we have to bring them together to work toward a common cause is a chance worth taking.” Amanda says, All of the kiddos put in a lot of effort and it was a blast watching them try new things and learn about their assigned countries.”

  • Ethnic snacks
  • Snow structure building
  • Skating
  • Unity Poetry contest
  • Artist poster chronicling the experience
  • Unit decorating
  • Flag creation and design competition
  • Obstacle course
  • Medicine ball throw
  • Sledding relay
  • Photo Booth
  • Snowshoeing


Doing these events helped me realize that I really can contribute something valuable to a cause bigger than myself.

Prairieview Resident



Program coordinator, Amanda Lundquist said of the events, “As a program coordinator, I’m grateful for the staff who show great creativity and initiative to bring opportunities like these to our kiddos. Amanda and Adam stepped up and made all of this possible through hard work, planning, and collaboration. I was thrilled to see what fun the kids had.”

We’re looking for YOU!

Become a Master Naturalist Volunteer for Northwest Passage today!

We are offering a unique volunteer opportunity at our Prairieview campus for

Wisconsin Master Naturalist Volunteer Training Course this spring. The course will focus on nature as a therapeutic tool for youth and will be an asset for the community. The subject areas included in the Master Naturalist training include geology, ecology, plant communities, wildlife, interpretation, water, and human impacts. The course will provide participants with a foundation in these subject areas. Unique to Northwest Passage’s course, lessons and workshops will include best practices and methods for working with youth with mental health and behavioral challenges.

A Master Naturalist instruction manual will be provided and used as a guiding resource for the course. Guest speakers will include regional scientists, professors, and natural history experts as well as members of Northwest Passage’s Clinical Team and Educational Staff. This specific course will appeal to enthusiastic educators with a passion not only for the nature of Wisconsin, but also with a desire to engage marginalized youth in the outdoors.

Project lead, Ian Karl says that “this is a great opportunity for anyone looking to improve their knowledge of our regional landscape and ecology or work with youth in their communities.” He goes on to say he hopes to see a wide array of community members – “we welcome anyone from educators and professionals in the field of mental health to anyone with a passion for connecting people with Wisconsin’s rich landscape”

When asked why Northwest Passage, a non-profit residential mental health program for youth, would invest in an opportunity like this in the community he smiled. “We know, and research supports, that spending time in nature is a key part of maintaining mental health. We want to help equip as many people as possible with the tools they need to be the connection for others to the woods, wildlife, and water in our little corner of the world. If one kid finds a mentor in a Master Naturalist Volunteer, then it’s worth it.”

The Wisconsin Master Naturalist Program is a network of well-informed citizens dedicated to conservation education and service within Wisconsin communities. The Master Naturalist Volunteer Training Course provides 40 hours of coursework in natural history, interpretation, and conservation stewardship. Courses combine classroom instruction with field experiences and are taught by professional natural resources educators and scientists.

Once trained, Wisconsin Master Naturalist Volunteers provide 40 hours of service, preferably with Northwest Passage at its prairie restoration site, and take 8 hours of advanced training each year to maintain their certification and receive a recognition pin. The course fee is $250 and includes all class materials and a one-year membership with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. Scholarships are available on a needs basis. If you’re interested in learning more about the scholarship, you can reach out to our development director, Chanda Elliott to apply. The courses will be held at Northwest Passage’s In a New Light Gallery and through a series of field trips. The gallery is located at: 7417 N Bass Lake Rd, Webster, WI 54893. The course will run every other weekend beginning on April 7, 2018 and will end on May 20, 2018.

Saturday, April 7: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 8: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 21: 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (Field Trip)
Saturday, May 5: 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (Field Trip)
Saturday, May 19: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 20: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

For more information about Northwest Passage call 715-327-4402 or visit us at


Prairieview-2016-Prairie-Study-03.jpg (attached) – Ian takes students out to the prairie to investigate their surroundings.
WMN_logo_color_med.png – Become a volunteer at Northwest Passage to help us with our prairie restoration stewardship project.


Since 1978, Northwest Passage’s mission has been to restore hope through innovative health services for children and families.

What is Self-Harm?

Scared. Disgusted. Confused. Worried. Frustrated. These are some of the words that I have heard from those caring for and about those who live with non-suicidal self-injurious behaviors, commonly known as self-harm. Oftentimes these caregivers will confuse self-harm with a suicide attempt; believing that their loved one was intending to die. They become emotionally exhausted from attending to the frequent feelings of urgency to address injuries and the emotional dysregulation surrounding the behavior.

The truth is, self-harm is only sometimes associated with suicidal ideation. Of course, knowing this does not make self-harm feel any less scary or baffling to caregivers.  It can be challenging to assess where this behavior is coming from and what purpose it is serving in an individual’s life. To better understand this pattern of behavior we often look at self-harm, not as the problem, but instead, as the solution to a problem. Looking at self-harm in this way can provide the opportunity to explore what other factors have motivated this concerning behavior. Additionally, looking for these motivators can help bring understanding to a pattern that can be difficult to understand.

Self-harm can serve many purposes for those who engage in it. For some, it can be a way to make their incomprehensible emotional pain make sense. They can make the abstract world of emotions, concrete through a physical wound. This often is the case for those who struggle with verbal communication or getting their ideas across effectively. For others, self-harm is a way to express their need for assistance from the outside world. And for still others, self-harm is actually a tool to prevent them from engaging in suicidal behaviors.

In many ways, self-harm behaviors can be seen as closely related to addictive behaviors. When an individual uses drugs and alcohol to soothe difficult emotions or to help express themselves, their other coping/communication skills become underused and a bit rusty. The same process happens with self-harm. When this behavior is solely relied upon in times of distress, other options that may be more sustainable and less problematic no longer get used.

When working to leave behind self-harm behaviors its important to learn about skills such as urge surfing which is based on the idea that no emotion last forever – rather, emotions come and go in waves. These emotional waves can be surfed with the use of a range of skills and so, too, can the urge to engage in self-harm. Of course, building a life worth living through therapeutic lifestyle choices and engaging in problem-solving for the issues that drive self-harm behaviors are also keys on the road to recovery!

Spreading Hope


The kids had an absolute blast last week as staff passed out greetings cards with wonderful messages of hope and tasty locally made cookies.

Last week was the second annual Valentine’s Day of Hope at Northwest Passage. But, “What is this all about?” asked one new staff member as the excitement spread through the building. Well, it’s a long story, kind of. Last year a pair of staff were looking to engage people who cared about Passage in a way that was accessible, directly impacted the kids, and wouldn’t cost them a dime (literally, not even a stamp). They stumbled across the idea of asking our “friends” to send in cards with inspirational messages to our kids. “We asked our supporters to send these cards in for the kids, of course, but also for themselves. We know that any act of kindness, no matter how small, is good for us. It ties in with the power of service, one of the eight tenets of the PassageWay.” explains clinical director, Angela Fredrickson. She goes on to say, “We wanted to be able to provide an opportunity for those who care about the work we do to be a part of that work.” So, they gave it a try. The team sent out cards with a simple note asking people to send in messages to the kids. The response was overwhelming.

Our son was at Northwest Passage several years ago. It was a rough time for everyone. Even after Passage, there were challenges. But gradually, our son dug deep into his soul and realized that life could be good if he made it that way. Today, he is a college graduate with a good job, sober for several years and helping others who are on their way to sobriety. Our hopes and prayers for you are that you will receive the help that NWP offers and see the “good” in life. We don’t know you, but we love you.

Parent of Past Resident

“I found myself tearing up as I read through these heartfelt messages people were sending in,” one staff member recalls. Another one talks about the power of reading the notes sent by the parents of past clients.  “It was empowering to see the stories from parents I’d worked with in the past. To know our work changed the lives of their kids in such profound ways. I was speechless.” The cards came from social workers, educational consultants, past clients and their parents, donors, and partners who have worked with our kids in the past. And their message was loud and clear – so many people care about these kids and we’ve got to do this again. So we did!

This year we saw the response to the effort double, responses came in from across the country from hundreds of supporters. So when staff walked into the program on Valentine’s Day this year, they were able to give kids a handful of cards chock full of messages of compassion, hope, and inspiration. Not to mention a delicious sugar cookie and a glass of milk. So sit back and soak up some of the hope that flooded over our kids.

And thank you, for being a part of such a beautiful moment that touched the lives of staff, the kids, and you yourself.

Be assured, you are important. I am so very proud of the work you do each day to become the person you are meant to be!


Please know that you are loved and that I care about you. Be confident that you have the power to overcome your obstacles. Have patience with yourself and never give up.


You will not be given any card in life that you cannot handle. You were born with the beauty and the strength to persevere through any hardships life throws your way and please don’t ever forget that you are strong, beautiful and worthy.


Connect to the gift of life, trust is within you, let it sustain you, like the flower that blooms in the stone. Miracles are everywhere. Yes, that is also you. May universal love enfold you and sustain you.


I want to remind you how strong you are and that whatever challenges you are facing you can get through them. Be the best you that you can be, you are worth more than you know.


To learn more about how service fits into the Northwest Passage philosophy of living an everyday therapeutic lifestyle, check out the PassageWay.


Have a little BOOST!


Article courtesy of mental health clinicianLisa B. Courchaine, LCSW

Hello fellow human! Today is the first day of the rest of your life. You know what else? February is national boost your self-esteem month. I know, it was news to me too!

I am a fan of quotes and also a fan of bullet points. So in honor of “national boost your self-esteem month,” here are some tips and things to keep in mind. I encourage you to be your own best friend and to enjoy the process of getting to know, accept and dare I say, love yourself….unconditionally.

Positive and Healthy Self-Talk:

  • “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” -Eleanor Roosevelt
  • “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better” -Maya Angelou
  • There’s no need to be perfect to inspire others. Let people get inspired by how you deal with your imperfections.
  • Don’t let anyone ever dull your sparkle.
  • Where attention goes – energy flows.
  • Your mind is like a garden, your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers, or you can grow weeds.

Surround yourself with those who accept and encourage you:

  • “Watch carefully the magic that occurs when you give a person enough comfort to just be themselves.” -Atticus
  • Be with those who bring out the best in you, not the stress in you.
  • “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” -Dr. Seuss
  • “Surround yourself with the dreamers and doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” -Edmund Lee

Stop comparing yourself to others:

  • Others’ success is not your failure.
  • Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20.
  • Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.

Live according to your values:

  • Make a list of your top 5 values in life. Explore ways you are living in alignment with your values and ways you could improve. Make a plan and notice how it feels to live in alignment with your values.
  • “Practice your values rather than professing them.”-Brene Brown
  • “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you really are.” -Carl Jung
  • Do the right thing when no one is looking.
  • “Don’t share things that aren’t yours to share-it erodes trust and confidence.” -Brene Brown

Be mindful of your past successes and accomplishments:

  • List those times when you really, really, really wanted to give up, and didn’t.
  • List those times when you were scared and self-conscious and showed up anyway.
  • Find the meaning or wisdom gained through life’s challenges.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate goals you have met, no matter how small, progress is progress people!








All the Boos Without the Booze: How to Have a Haunting Halloween in Sobriety

Article Submitted by guest author Caleb Anderson of Recovery Hope
Photo Credit: hzv_westfalen_de, Pixabay

While celebrating Halloween may have previously entailed dressing up in a costume, heading to a party, and drinking alcohol or using substances, now that you’re in sobriety, that’s obviously not a party you want or need to attend. Luckily, there are plenty of more low-key and sober options that are fun or scary, and some are a little bit of both. From themed parties to scary movie marathons, you’re sure to find a way to have a haunting Halloween in sobriety.

Throw a Themed Party

Hosting your own sober Halloween party is a great way to celebrate the holiday without the presence of substances. Make the party a themed celebration to take the festivities up a few notches. The decorations, food, beverages, and costumes can be centered on the theme. For example, you can host a Harry Potter-themed party, complete with a Sorting Hat game and Golden Snitch cake pops. Ask guests to dress like their favorite houses or characters.

A Nancy Drew Mystery Party and a Clue-themed party are also great ideas. Either option sets up the opportunity to have guests solve mysteries during the get-together. For Clue, guests can wear colors of their favorite characters, and a Nancy Drew can feature magnifying glass cookies and campy detective decor. Other themes can be The Nightmare Before Christmas, a mad scientist’s lab, or a haunted house.

Host A Pumpkin Carving Party

Carving pumpkins is one of the most popular Halloween traditions, so why not host a pumpkin carving party on Halloween night? You can either provide pumpkins for everyone or ask guests to bring their own pumpkins. If you choose the latter, you should still have a few on hand in case someone forgets to bring one. The best carving pumpkins are smooth, firm, and symmetrical. You can also print out pumpkin-carving templates and patterns.

Carving outside is ideal since pumpkin carving can get messy, but if the weather doesn’t permit outdoor carving, set up a station inside. Cover the tables with newspaper, kraft paper, or a disposable tablecloth. Because pumpkin flesh and seeds can be slippery, consider covering the floors too. Serve fall-inspired food, drinks, and desserts like pumpkin-shaped cheese balls, warm apple cider, and leaf-shaped cookies.

Go to a Halloween Party

Instead of hosting your own Halloween party, you can attend a friend’s spooky bash. However, planning ahead before you go is crucial if you go this route. Bring a sober friend with you if possible, and always determine transportation arrangements beforehand. Either drive your own car or have the number of a cab company in your phone so that you can leave when you’re ready, especially if you start to feel uncomfortable.

Someone may offer you a drink without knowing you’re in sobriety, or someone may try to pressure you into using substances. Think of a script to say “no” so the person knows you’re definitive in your decision. Also, when you arrive at the party, scope out the layout so you can have a smooth exit if you need to leave.

Visit a Haunted City

This Halloween, take a trip to a city with a haunting history. Whether you live on the East Coast or the West Coast or somewhere in between, there’s bound to be a haunted city near you. Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA are two of the most popular destinations. Some hauntings in Charleston have been reported since the 1700s when pirates were hung, and Savannah is dubbed “the most frightening city and seaport in all of America” by the Travel Channel.

Boston, MA is an obvious choice because of the soldiers who perished in the Revolutionary War, but it’s also home to the first person to be persecuted as a witch. San Antonio, TX features a few haunted hotels, which have been the site of murder and disruption throughout history. You can also add St. Paul, MN; San Francisco, CA; Chicago, IL; New Orleans, LA; Gettysburg, PA; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Portland, OR; Washington, DC; and Charlotte, NC to your list.

Of course, you shouldn’t feel bad about staying home and watching scary movies or handing candy out to trick-or-treaters. You should do whatever you feel comfortable doing that doesn’t involve using substances. As long as you make a plan and prepare for the evening, you can have a fun and frightful Halloween while staying focused on your goal of sobriety.

Northwest Passage wins Arts in the Community Award

Northwest Passage executive director, Mark Elliott, received an Arts in the Community Award on behalf of Northwest Passage from Arts Wisconsin, a part of Wisconsin’s statewide community cultural development organization.

The award was presented at the ninth annual Arts in the Community Awards event on Thursday, October 19, 2017, during the League of Wisconsin Municipalities’ 119th annual conference, at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in Appleton, WI.

These awards, presented by Arts Wisconsin in partnership with the League of Municipalities, “celebrate visionary leadership in and committed advocacy for the arts in all corners of the state,” says Arts Wisconsin Board President Ann Huntoon. “We’re proud to partner with the League of Municipalities to present these awards, and appreciative of the sponsors who make the awards possible.”

Mark Elliott has led Northwest Passage, which provides innovative residential mental health services to at-risk youth ages 12-17 and their families through innovative mental health services, since 2000. NWP’s cornerstone therapeutic arts program is In a New Light, using photography as a medium for expression and healing. Since 2012, photography art by NWP youth has been supported by the National Park Service and other national, state and local funders. Their work has been featured at the In a New Light Gallery in Webster and more than 40 locations locally and nationally.

The In a New Light Gallery in Webster showcases NWP students’ artwork to the public, giving youth a platform upon which to use their art to rewrite society’s narrative about themselves and other vulnerable youth like them. The gallery has filled a decade-old arts and culture void in the area and is one of the few art galleries in Burnett County.

Northwest Passage Sets up an Endowment Fund!

The Boards of Northwest Passage and the St. Croix Valley Foundation have announced that the Northwest Passage Endowment Fund is now being managed by the St. Croix Valley Foundation. Steve Schroeder, Chair of the St. Croix Valley Foundation says he is delighted that Northwest Passage has made this decision. “We believe that this will prove to be a fruitful partnership,” he said.

From its genesis in 1978, Northwest Passage programming has focused on blending traditional mental health treatment with arts and nature-based therapy. Though the problems facing children and teens have evolved since 1978, the fundamental needs for self-respect, trust, relationships, and steady guidance remain the same. And while Northwest Passage has grown in size and sophistication, it has never lost sight of the foundations all children need to be successful. By investing in the lives of marginalized youth, Northwest Passage is influencing and changing how mental health is ultimately treated and viewed. The transformations seen are no less than extraordinary.

The new fund will be invested and managed to provide funding in perpetuity for projects, and programs for Northwest Passage. “Having an endowment for Northwest Passage is an important step,” says Board President Kelly Hibbs. “As the needs of our clients change it is reassuring to know that this fund will be there forever to help with our future needs.”

The St. Croix Valley Foundation is a community foundation that serves six counties on both sides of the St. Croix River. It serves ten Affiliation Foundations that serve the following communities: Amery, Chisago Lakes, Hudson, Lower St. Croix communities, New Richmond, Burnett County, Prescott, River Falls, Somerset, and Stillwater.

For more information about the Northwest Passage Endowment Fund call our Development Director, Chanda Elliott at 715-327-4402 or visit us at

Grand Opening!


Northwest Passage is celebrating its increased capacity for serving children and families at its Frederic location this week with an Open House. The Prairieview and Assessment programs have gained a new Wellness Center, complete with a gym and both an outdoor and indoor classroom, and Prairieview added a new unit. The event will be held Thursday, August 24 from 3:30 – 5:30 pm at the new Wellness Center at 201 United Way in Frederic.

Situated at the south edge of town, Northwest Passage operates two mental health residential treatment programs serving youth struggling with mental illness ages 6-17. Ellen Race says of the programs, “treatment deals with everything from their physical and mental health, academics, and fun. Adding a facility like the Wellness Center provides greater quality of care, rain or shine.” As a part of the Wellness Center expansion, Northwest Passage has committed to providing an immersive, environmentally themed, project-based educational curriculum.

The students will work with a number of pollinator friendly projects throughout the year. They will work to assist Northwest Passage in the restoration of a portion of its land to native prairie grasses through multiple projects such as the St. Croix Master Watershed Stewards rain garden initiative and the National Park Service’s Pollinator Pledge. They will work directly with pollinators through service at Horst M. Rechelbacher Foundation’s pollinator lab, by tending to their own beehive. They will also grow pollinator dependent fruits and vegetables in their own gardens thanks to St. Croix Valley Foundations support and make pollinator friendly art projects – all of which will be on display at Thursday’s open house.

Tours will also be given of the newest unit at Prairieview. “We’re excited to be showing off our new unit in our Prairieview program,” says executive director Mark Elliott.  “There is a dramatic shortage of residential mental health services in the state and all over the country. This expansion does a small part in reaching that need. It allows us to pursue our mission with even more kids.”

Northwest Passage would like to thank the St. Croix Valley Foundation as a number of these projects received funding from the SCVF and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.


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