Northwest Passage, a forerunner in residential mental health care for children and teens based in Webster, Wisconsin, is celebrating 40 years of hope and healing. Northwest Passage is dedicated to restoring hope through innovative mental health services for children and families.
Steve Ammend and Denison Tucker co-founded the development of Northwest Passage in 1978. After working together at an adolescent psychiatric unit, they had a vision to develop a mental health treatment program for adolescent boys using the wonderful natural resources of northwestern Wisconsin. Why Wisconsin? The area, beyond simply lacking in treatment programs, possessed a restorative and healing natural environment, unlike the concrete walls of the psychiatric unit they had grown accustomed to working in. After many long nights, and a rumored 37 million cups of coffee, Ammend and Tucker founded Northwest Passage on the premise that kids with mental health issues can get better in places other than a hospital. They believed healing could happen in a beautiful place, in nature, out in the woods. The founders knew then the intrinsic power nature has to heal.
From its genesis in 1978, Northwest Passage’s 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, they’ve never lost sight of the foundations all children need to be successful. Above anything else, Northwest Passage’s goal is to restore hope in their clients. By investing in the lives of marginalized youth, they are influencing and changing how mental health is ultimately treated and viewed. The transformations seen at Northwest Passage are no less than extraordinary.
“We had been to doctor after doctor. No one seemed to be able to tell us how to help our daughter. When we found Northwest Passage, we had little hope left. But, then the doctors listened to us and to her. The treatment team worked together to figure out the puzzle our daughter’s life had become. When they finished their assessment, they sat down with us until it all made sense. They talked to us like people, not just like professionals. And they helped us where no one else could before. Now, we know what our daughter needs and we can finally help her to get it. The careful assessment that Northwest did gave us a miracle…and gave us back all the hope we had lost.” – Parent of a Northwest Passage resident
A long way from the humble beginnings of one house on the banks of the Clam River, Northwest Passage now operates three distinct residential treatment programs and two group programs:
- COMPREHENSIVE ASSESSMENT PROGRAM provides a focused multidisciplinary health assessment centered around collaboration that generates a dynamic treatment plan. This one-of-a-kind program offers children and families a chance to stop the guesswork and find stability. The program serves boys and girls ages 6-17 in 23 beds at Northwest Passage’s Frederic, Wisconsin location.
- INTENSIVE RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT FOR BOYS is ideal for boys experiencing significant emotional and behavioral disorders. This program blends sophisticated treatment with the teaching of essential life skills such as personal responsibility and relationship building to provide an intensive, effective, and lasting treatment experience. The program serves males ages 12-17 in 26 beds at the Riverside location in Webster, Wisconsin.
- INTENSIVE RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT FOR GIRLS is designed for the unique needs of adolescent females. Programming focuses on increased self-esteem, development of healthy coping skills, promotional of positive relationship-building and social skills, and promotion of a connection to community. This program serves girls ages 12-17 in 24 beds at the Prairieview location in Frederic, Wisconsin.
- NORTHWEST OASIS GROUP HOME uses preexisting community services and couples those with a stable and structured setting giving clients opportunities to experience success in their home community and assists them in a seamless transition home. This program, located in Hayward, Wisconsin, focuses on serving juvenile males ages 12-17 experiencing difficulties in their homes, schools or communities.
- NORTHWEST TRANSITIONS is a four bed adult family home located in New Richmond, Wisconsin. The group home is contracted with St. Croix County Mental Health and is working as part of their community support program to provide services for adults who are classified by the State of Wisconsin as having emotional disturbances or mental illness.
Northwest Passage also operates the In a New Light Gallery. The gallery is the physical manifestation of the hope and healing experiences of art and nature. The first of its kind, the In a New Light Gallery showcases the artwork of Northwest Passage’s clients who are learning for the first time to navigate their lives based on the talents they hold. Opened in May of 2013, the gallery also serves as a bridge to the community – a public testament to the truly astonishing talents of children and teens who are too often marginalized with the stigma associated with their mental illness. The space provides an opportunity to create conversation and foster partnerships within the community and local tourism groups. Through art exhibitions around the United States, as well as worldwide media exposure, the young artists of Northwest Passage have touched the lives of over one million people to date. By sharing their story, In a New Light gives marginalized children a voice to prove to the world that they are profoundly worthy of society’s investment. The In a New Light Gallery is located at 7417 North Bass Lake Road in Webster, Wisconsin, and is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm.
“Our kids often struggle to engage the world in a positive way, so we have worked hard to develop programming specific to helping them connect meaningfully with people and their community. Part of this effort has been the development of partnerships and other community connections that directly affect the kids we work with. We have many new and exciting projects on the horizon that will ensure we can continue our mission and continue to help each child we work with to realize their life is worth living. We are incredibly grateful for the support of our community, and look forward to being a valuable resource for families in Northwest Wisconsin and beyond for many years to come.” – Mark Elliott, Executive Director