The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction Welcomes New Board Chair Vaughan Dowie

OTTAWA, July 06, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Vaughan Dowie as the Chair of its Board of Directors. This is a Governor in Council appointment for a minimum three-year period. Mr. Dowie is the CEO of Pine River Institute, an Ontario residential treatment centre and outdoor leadership experience for youth.

Land-based youth mental health and addiction facility now open - Manitoulin Expositor

Gwekwaadziwin Miikan opened the doors of its new land-based youth addiction and mental health facility in Little Current, Manitoulin Island on May 25. A recent article in the Manitoulin Expositor said the new program’s staff worked closely with PRI and “were able to adapt the Pine River model and integrate it into an Anishinabek culture-based program.” The team visited PRI campus and OLE in late April.

You can read this piece on the Manitoulin Expositor website here:

Land-based youth mental health and addiction facility now open.

Not enough is being planned to protect youth from effects of marijuana - Toronto Star

“It is unethical for any jurisdiction to profit from the tax and sale of cannabis and not invest a significant portion in treatment,” writes Vaughan Dowie, CEO of Pine River Institute. 

You can read his opinion piece in the Toronto Star here:

Not enough is being planned to protect youth from effects of marijuana.

Pine River Institute Reaccredited by COA

COA logo Accredited By.gif

January 2018 - Pine River has received reaccreditation from the Council on Accreditation (COA). PRI first received accreditation in 2009, and reaccreditation in 2013 from COA.

COA is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. COA requires we meet numerous administrative, management, and service standards developed for Canadian organizations. The process involves the review and accreditation of our entire organization. Ensuring we meet these standards provides an opportunity to improve in some areas and, as importantly, to appreciate and celebrate all of the good stuff we have in place.

Pine River is proud to be recognized by COA as an outstanding provider.

Learn more about the Council on Accreditation here. 

Ontario must do right thing with cannabis revenues

Following our symposium in Toronto October 30, Cannabis and Youth: Implications for Legalization in Ontario, the Toronto Star published an opinion piece by Vaughan Dowie CEO of Pine River Institute. You can read it here:

Ontario must do right thing with cannabis revenues

For more about the symposium, with links to many of the presentations, just scroll down to the previous post.

Cannabis and Youth: Implications for Legalization in Ontario

On October 30, 2017 Pine River Institute hosted a symposium examining the policy implications for legalization of recreational cannabis as it pertains to Ontario youth. An array of speakers from both Canada and the United States, as well as an audience of policymakers, service providers, and other key stakeholders exchanged thoughts on a variety of subjects.  

The Federal Government was represented by Bill Blair, MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Health, responsible for the cannabis legalization file. We were also very pleased to have Senator Tony Dean, formerly Cabinet Secretary in Ontario, spend the day with us. The Ontario government was represented, among others, by the Premier’s Health Care Policy Advisor, Adrienne Spafford.

Other speakers included the keynote Beau Kilmer, Co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center in San Francisco; Lewis Koski, a former advisor to the government of Colorado who worked on their legalization; the Uruguayan Ambassador to Canada, Martin Vidal, and a Senior Policy Analyst at CAMH, Jean-François Crépault, who is the lead author of the CAMH Cannabis Policy Framework report that served as a guide to the federal government. We also heard from Pine River’s Director of Research & Evaluation, Laura Mills, and PRI Board member Michael Bryant, who highlighted the effectiveness of treatment for youth and the tremendous need to increase treatment availability.

Our partners, St. Michael's Hospital, Ryerson University, and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, also made contributions to the balanced and wide-ranging discussions that included doctors, community workers, and a youth panel on “Youth Experiences.”

Many of our speakers have generously provided their presentations for us to share with you here:

One More Kid: An Ontario Public Health Plan for Cannabis Legalization by Michael Bryant
One More Kid – presentation slides

Preventing Cannabis Related Harms by Chiachen Cheng, MD, FRCP(C), MPH Mae Katt, NP

The Regulation of Cannabis in Ontario: Views from CAMH by Jean-François Crépault

Youth-centred Cannabis Education & Harm Prevention: Lessons from TRACE research by Rebecca Haines-Saah

Ontario’s Approach to Federal Cannabis Legalization (government of Ontario)

Does Substance Use Treatment Work? by Laura Mills

The Effects of Cannabis Use During Adolescence by Amy Porath, CCSA

McCain Centre Youth Engagement Initiative: Adapting Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines to be Youth-Friendly by Jackie Relihan and Jessica Rong

Understanding Youth Perceptions on Cannabis by Katie Fleming, CCSA



Federal Government: Cannabis Education

Ontario Preparing for Federal Cannabis Legalization

Bill 174, Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act, 2017

 New developments in cannabis regulation:

Recreational Cannabis — Minimizing the Health Risks from Legalization

European Drugs and Addiction Library


We are very pleased to share with you Pine River Institute's Annual Evaluation Report for 2016. The effort underlying this report, to track outcomes and understand the impact of our work, is a hallmark of Pine River Institute.

Our Annual Evaluation Report provides valuable insight into the complex nature of adolescents facing addictive behaviours and frequently other mental health issues. These findings help us continuously improve our program. We are equally committed to sharing these lessons with others. 

The release of this report each year is a source of pride for us. We want to acknowledge the hard work of Dr. Laura Mills and her research team to compile the data and develop this report. We are also appreciative of the guidance provided by the Pine River Institute Board of Director's Research Advisory Committee chaired by Dr. Mark Greenberg.

Gary & Donna Slaight donate $1M to Pine River Institute

Landmark gift is the largest to-date to Canada’s leading long-term residential treatment centre for adolescents struggling with addiction and mental health issues.

 Toronto (October 4th, 2017)Addiction and mental health treatment is now more accessible for youth and their families thanks to a $1M personal gift from Gary and Donna Slaight to Pine River Institute. The donation will fund bursaries to eliminate the financial barrier to care, which can be a significant obstacle for families seeking treatment for an adolescent child.

Ontario families in crisis have limited options. Pine River is one of the few places where youth between the ages of 13 - 19 can get simultaneous treatment for both addiction and mental health issues. Unlike most “rehab” programs which run 21 or 30 days, there is no time limit at Pine River. Youth typically spend 14 - 16 months engaged in Pine River’s program; their treatment largely, but not entirely, covered by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, leaving families on the hook for a bill of $10,000 or more. Recognizing that many families cannot afford this expense, Pine River has offered partial subsidies since 2006 to finance program costs not covered by government or independent insurance providers.­

“Treatment is hard work and recovery takes time. The Gary & Donna Slaight Bursary Fund will ensure that any young person can access Pine River’s life-saving care and will give families the chance to focus on healing and growing alongside their child, which leads to better outcomes and sustained recovery,” said Vaughan Dowie, CEO, Pine River Institute. “We are profoundly grateful for the trust and support of Gary and Donna Slaight whose gift will benefit so many families.”

“When a child is ill, the whole family struggles. Waiting months to start treatment is a torture no family should have to endure. And, to go without is unthinkable. Donna and I are privileged to be able to help and we are excited that our gift toward bursaries will make it possible for more youth and their families to access Pine River’s exceptional care. Because, every young person deserves the chance to build a healthy and productive life,” said Gary Slaight.


September 14, 2017 – Orangeville, ON

John Fallis was recognized for his service to Pine River Institute. He was a member of PRI’s Advisory Committee for three years before becoming Executive Director of Operations, and has been an enthusiastic supporter of Pine River in the educational community. His three decades of helping “at-risk” youth initiatives is deeply appreciated. 

It’s truly an honour and privilege to present this commemorative Canada 150 Medallion to 75 individuals representing Dufferin and 75 individuals representing Caledon who’ve demonstrated exemplary service and dedication to Dufferin-Caledon. Each of the 150 outstanding recipients of this Medallion have made tremendous contributions to our community, making it a better place to live, work, and play. The Medallion, designed to represent Canada’s 150th anniversary, is one small way we can express our deep appreciation and gratitude for the positive impact the recipients have had on the community, as they embody the cherished Canadian values we celebrate this year.

- David Tilson, Member of Parliament for Dufferin-Caledon

 From Left: RCMP Officer Brenda Whitteron, John Fallis, David Tilson, MP

From Left: RCMP Officer Brenda Whitteron, John Fallis, David Tilson, MP

Canada 150 Medallion .jpg


The Toronto office for Pine River Institute & Pine River Foundation has moved. Our new address:

180 Dundas Street West, Suite 1410
Toronto, ON  M5G 1Z8

Phone & fax have NOT changed:

Phone: 416-955-1453
Fax: 416-955-1652


Pine River Institute is pleased to announce that we have been awarded $400K from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s Community Infrastructure Renewal Fund (CIRF) to replace the septic system at our campus.

It’s easy to appreciate the necessity of an efficient and reliable septic system at a residential facility like Pine River, where cooking, cleaning, showers, laundry, etc. place demands on our system 365 days/year, 24/7. We are committed to provide a well-maintained ‘home’ for our youths during their time with us, and this funding is essential for us to do just that.
- Vaughan Dowie, CEO Pine River Institute

Read more here.


For every dollar invested in Pine River Institute (PRI) there is an average return of 700%. This according to a Social Return on Investment study authored by PhD students Christina Hackett and Young Jung, and Professor Gillian Mulvale from the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University. The authors determined that the return on investment ranged from 5:1 to 10:1 and settled on an average 7:1 return.

Human service programs have been struggling to demonstrate this concept. How do you best represent the equation? Social return on investment studies are still an emerging field for non-profit organizations. When executed in a disciplined manner, they allow for a reliable measure of the real and quantifiable dividends of a program like PRI, residential treatment for youth struggling with addictive behaviours.

Over the course of our 11 years in operation, PRI has consistently placed an emphasis on research and outcome evaluation. It is because of this commitment that we have the data to form the basis of the social return on investment approach. We believe that credible SROI studies should be done by third-parties. That is why we worked with our colleagues at McMaster to undertake this project using their own methodologies and approaches.

The social impact of not investing in our program, the report suggests, is far reaching:

...failure to intervene and treat psychological issues, including substance use, in early life has long-term economic and societal consequences in the following domains... healthcare, justice, and generated tax revenue from parent/ guardian and youth income. 

We can't afford NOT to invest in residential treatment for our young people and their families.


The Federal Government will table legislation today to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Pine River Institute is calling on the Government to immediately launch a clear and consistent public education approach for young people and their families.

Read an opinion piece by our CEO, Vaughan Dowie, published by the Toronto Star April 11, 2017: When we legalize marijuana, 'let's party' is not the message we should send.



We are very pleased to share with you Pine River Institute's Evaluation Report for 2015. 
The effort underlying this report, to track outcomes and understand the impact of our work, is a hallmark of Pine River Institute.

Our annual Evaluation Report provides valuable insight into the complex nature of adolescents facing addictive behaviours and frequently other mental health issues. These findings help us continuously improve our program. We are equally committed to sharing these lessons with others. 

The release of this report each year is a source of pride for us. We want to acknowledge the hard work of Dr. Laura Mills and her research team to compile the data and develop this report. We are also appreciative of the guidance provided by the Pine River Institute Board of Director's Research Advisory Committee chaired by Dr. Mark Greenberg.


We are pleased to share with you our Annual Report for 2015-2016. You will see here that Pine River continues to provide a unique and effective family-centred program for youth struggling with addictive behaviours and frequently other co-occurring mental health issues.  

Annual reports can be dry, but we hope you will find inspiration reading about the wilderness phase of our program, the starting place for changing lives. You may also enjoy meeting our new Clinician-Researcher, and the update on our collaborative research and evaluation initiative. 

Also new this year, a report from Pine River Foundation Board Chair Nancy Hamm and CEO Jennifer Blunt highlighting Foundation activities and recognizing this years' most generous donors.


For successfully using statistical data to measure the outcome of programs that assist young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties, Pine River Institute has been selected by the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs as a Research Designated Program (RDP). 

The new RDP designation is bestowed upon NATSAP-member programs that have demonstrated data-driven outcomes. Thirty-eight (38) NATSAP programs have achieved inaugural RDP status, and Pine River is proud to be among them as the only Canadian program to receive this honour.

"Programs that examine their work, and contribute to the scholarly, professional and practical understanding of the effects of our members' interventions, deserve the appropriate recognition," said Clifford Brownstein, Executive Director, NATSAP. "We strongly encourage all NATSAP-member programs to begin a systematic examination of their work, and join those programs who are engaged in these efforts currently."

"Providing data that examines the impact and effectiveness of NATSAP member schools and programs is the responsibility of every residential treatment center, wilderness treatment program, therapeutic schools and those committed to helping adolescents and young adults with behavior challenges," said Michael Gass, Ph.D., LMFT, College of Health and Human Services, University of New Hampshire, who has spearheaded NATSAP's Outcomes Research Project for the past decade.


Pine River’s program is grounded in best practices for treatment of youth challenged by addictive behaviours and other mental health issues. One of our dreams over these past 10 years has been to create a separate dormitory building for the young women in our program. Currently, most of the daily living activities occur in a single building.  As you can appreciate, separate dormitory space for girls and boys is a clinical best practice.

Our facility is situated on land protected by the Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP). To move forward with our objective to create a girls’ dormitory we submitted a request for an amendment to the NEP to allow us to build. This proposed building would be 6000 ft.², so a very small additional footprint on almost 200 acres. The NEC’s concern for protecting the natural environment is ours also. Our program depends heavily on our natural surroundings, and an appreciation of one's environment is a value we instill.  

The Government of Ontario is currently undertaking a coordinated review of the four provincial land use plans through the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry; one of the plans under review is the Niagara Escarpment Plan. Our amendment request is now part of this phase of consultation. [See our request and a map of the proposed footprint below.] 

Public consultations are under way and will be ongoing until October 31, 2016


We hope you feel inspired to send a note to the NEC expressing support for our plan. You can mail a letter, send a fax, pick up the phone, or submit a comment online. All contact info found below. 

We would appreciate receiving a copy of any submissions that are made.

Our Amendment ID: UA56: Mulmur. Comments on proposed amendments must be received by October 31, 2016.

Letter, phone, fax:

Ms Kim Peters
Strategic Advisor
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Niagara Escarpment Commission - Georgetown Office
232 Guelph Street
Georgetown Ontario  L7G 4B1 

Phone: (905) 877-6425
Fax: (905) 873-7452

Or submit a comment online.  On right side under Contact click on Submit Comment.

Thank you for your support.

Pine River students live, work, play and heal on our beautiful campus


June is a big month for Pine River Institute, as we celebrate 10 YEARS since we welcomed our first student and family into the program. We've come a long way and helped more than 325 families to face and address addiction and mental health issues with courage and conviction. 
It so happens that June is also Great Canadian Giving Challenge month; every dollar you donate to Pine River in June qualifies us for a chance to win $10,000.
So here's our 10th anniversary challenge to you: Give $10 so we can win $10K

Should you choose to accept the challenge, please donate here. 


Thank you for your support.



On June 1st eight Pine River students proudly received their Ontario Secondary School Diplomas (OSSD), five of whom were Ontario Scholars (an average of 80% or greater)! About 40 family and friends helped us to celebrate these remarkable young people and their accomplishments. The weather was perfect - sunny, warm, with a little breeze to keep the bugs away.  

AND....the pavilion garden project, led by our Educational Assistant Janet Piper, was completed just in time. Janet headed the ambitious project to move this structure from down the hill near Benos gym to the back of the school, and transform it to a gorgeous pavilion garden. Janet's husband, her son-in-law, and some friends volunteered their time and replaced the roof that was damaged in the ice storm and installed a lovely ceiling. Our students were involved in the construction, moving soil and lime stone, and planting new trees and flowers as part of their PRI credit. "Without the amazing help from John Killen (Maintenance Coordinator) we could NOT have done all of this", Janet said. And thanks to Home Depot for a grant that helped with costs.

Janet provided this update in mid-May: "We are in the home stretch. We were working on it on Saturday 14th but it was so cold and rainy. Once people started blowing on their hands to keep them warm, I said, "That's it, time to go home and warm up." [You may recall we had snow on Sun May 15th.] So James (my husband) and I will be back building this weekend to finish up (May 21-23). I'm hoping to have the annuals planted by the end of this week (May 19)."

Well, seeing is believing... 

  Teachers : Sarah Earley, Ryan Stewart, Sasha Reeve;  VP   (UGDSB) : Steve McGill

Teachers: Sarah Earley, Ryan Stewart, Sasha Reeve; VP (UGDSB): Steve McGill

One-of-a-kind program turns 10!

TORONTO, Ontario, June 6, 2016 - On this day in 2006, the first student and family made the trip up the long and winding driveway at Pine River Institute (PRI) near Shelburne, Ontario; a road more than 300 young people have since taken with their families.

They arrive to us at a time of crisis in their lives, struggling with addictive behaviours and often concurrent mental health issues. Pine River is a family-centered residential program based on the developmental needs of adolescents, and grounded in best practices for substance abuse treatment for youth. It is the only treatment centre of its kind in Canada, and is accredited by the internationally recognized Council on Accreditation (COA). 

Over the past 10 years that single student has become 29 beds funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care via the Toronto Central LHIN, with others joining them on a fee for service basis. We have honed the program with a consistent vision and approach.  Pine River has attracted a group of passionate and supremely talented staff. And thanks to PRI's commitment to research and evaluation, we can show that our approach works for a large majority who complete the program.

Our program is unique in Canada; we combine wilderness experience, residential treatment, education, and aftercare, with a strong emphasis on family work.  Every phase of the program is individualized, and length of stay is variable.
                                                                                      --Vaughan Dowie, CEO Pine River Institute



Barb Jessup
Director of Communications (and Pine River alumni parent)
Phone: 647-824-1560