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


In the current edition of the Journal of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, a publication of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP), there are two articles authored by Pine River Institute staff:

Family Matters: Engaging Parents in Youth Treatment by Dr. Victoria Creighton, Clinical Director, and Dr. Laura Mills, Director of Research & Evaluation (pp. 57-64).

For All You Do, This Article is For You: Thoughts on Optimizing and Evolving Treatment Evaluation by Dr. Laura Mills and Sarah Lewis, Center for Research, Assessment, and Treatment Efficacy (pp. 12-17).

This journal is primarily a forum of exchange on issues of theory, research, and practice aimed at clinicians, administrators and educational consultants active in residential treatment and wilderness programs in the U.S.

Pine River is a member of the Research Consortium for the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP), and we serve on their Ethics and Research Boards. 

You can read the full articles at the link above.

National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs logo

National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs logo

New CEO for Pine River Foundation

The Pine River community welcomes Jennifer Blunt as CEO of Pine River Foundation.

Jennifer brings 25 years of experience in fund development and a huge passion for helping youth and families overcome addiction and mental health issues. 

Her interest in the field of addiction stems back to her undergraduate years as a Psychology Major at Queens University where she completed a thesis investigating the interrelationship between eating disorders and alcoholism. Jennifer’s final summer at Queens was spent leading at-risk youth on ten-day wilderness expeditions into Algonquin Park; a rewarding experience that touched her deeply. 

Since graduation, Jennifer has held various roles in sales, marketing, and fundraising management. Her career in fund development led her to the Toronto Public Library where she helped initiate the first ever Canadian library fundraising campaign and ultimately became the founding President of the Toronto Public Library Foundation.

After a short hiatus to start her family, Jennifer rejoined the workforce in 2004 on a part-time basis as Director of Development for Portage Ontario. Over the last twelve years, she has assumed increased responsibility for the growth and stabilization of public and private funding for Portage. She has built considerable knowledge and strong connections in the field of youth addiction and mental health.

Jennifer lives in Toronto with her husband Robert Blunt, two teenage daughters, and an array of pets. They especially enjoy time at the family cottage, outdoor sports (rowing and skiing), and entertaining family and friends. 

Jennifer assumed her responsibilities as CEO of Pine River Foundation October 1, 2015.


In June 2014 PRI students helped John Fallis, our Executive Director of Operations, to install two bee hives on campus. The hives grew and strengthened over the summer of 2014, survived the long winter, and started the spring in good shape. Many of our current students have been intrigued by these colonies and often request time to inspect the hives. This means getting suited up with protective clothing and headgear and opening up the hives to see what is going on. The students are getting good at identifying the stages of brood in the colony and have developed a real appreciation for fresh honey. They had hoped to harvest 40 kilograms of liquid honey.

Well...a few weeks ago our two Pine River hives produced about 50 kg of liquid gold! The students did a great job with the extracting, straining, and bottling of our "Pine River Gold” summer edition. It will be used in the kitchen, sold to staff and families, and given out as gifts.


We hope you'll take a moment to follow our story here.


You may know that…

Pine River Institute’s Director of Research and Evaluation, Dr. Laura Mills, is leading a province-wide project to develop and implement a common approach to evaluation in the youth addiction sector. We secured $327,500 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation on behalf of 12 youth addiction agencies. This initiative has also received support from the Ontario Centre of Excellence in Child and Youth Mental Health, and Addictions and Mental Health Ontario.


On May 29, 2015 Pine River was granted $210,264 by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care under Health Canada’s Drug Treatment Funding Program to support this collaborative initiative, Supplementing, Sustaining & Spreading Evaluation Capacity in the Youth Addictions Treatment Sector. We are grateful to the Government of Ontario, the Government of Canada, and to our partner organizations in this project for their dedication to establishing a common approach that will benefit all. Thanks go to:

Alternatives for Youth (Hamilton)


Community Addiction Services of Niagara

Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre (Ottawa)

HopeGreyBruce (Owen Sound)

Maison Fraternité (Ottawa)

Mamisarvik Inuit Healing Centre (Ottawa)

Portage (Elora)

Ray of Hope (Kitchener)

Rideauwood (Ottawa)

SickKids (Toronto)

Sister Margaret Smith (Thunder Bay)

 Below is an update on this project from Dr. Mills.

The current state of the evaluative capacity among youth addiction agencies in Ontario is varied and non-systematic. It can be difficult, and sometimes impossible, to determine how effective youth addiction programs are, and whether we are getting youth to the right program for their needs.

Our project is designed to increase the capacity to do evaluation among the agencies involved. To this end, we have conducted an environmental scan with clients, parents, and agency staff to better understand what client outcomes we should be measuring, and how and when to measure them.

We are now developing a common framework for evaluation. This includes training on tools, building interactive software, and selecting and setting up hardware.

The common framework will be piloted across our collaborative programs, which are varied in type and approach. What we learn from this pilot will inform training materials and resources for other programs in the province.


Donate By June 30 and Automatically Enter


To Win A $10,000 Donation!

The more you give, the more chances we have to win!

Every $1 donated IN JUNE is an automatic entry for us to win (minimum $3 donation required).



to make your donation.

Thank you for your support!

 Grand prize draw is on CANADA DAY, July 1, 2015 - $10,000 will be donated to the winning charity.

Pine River Foundation raises and stewards funds to support Pine River Institute, so that we can continue to provide the best possible care to youth struggling with addictive behaviours and often other co-occurring mental health issues. 


On a sunny day in April, Deputy Minister Alex Bezzina and Assistant Deputy Minister JoAnn Miller-Reid spent a couple of hours with us at the Pine River Institute campus near Shelburne, Ontario. It is always gratifying when people make the effort to visit our campus a few hours outside of Toronto, and see for themselves just how our program works. We truly appreciate the opportunity to share it with them.

Our guests learned first-hand from our Clinical Director, Dr. Victoria Creighton, about our maturity model, the phases within the program, variable length of stay, and working with the whole family. They heard from Dr. Laura Mills, Director of Research & Evaluation, about our on-going outcome evaluation, and the many collaborative projects in which she is involved or leading. Our CEO, Vaughan Dowie and John Fallis, Executive Director of Operations provided an overview on a number of issues, and all engaged in meaningful discussion about the need for residential treatment for youth in Ontario.

Two current Pine River students joined the conversation, and shared their experience of the program. Both were eloquent and honest about their challenges and how Pine River has helped them and their families to heal and grow. Our tour of the campus concluded with a tasting of the students’ maple syrup, its production in progress.


WORKSHOP INVITATION: SAT MAY 30 TORONTO - Traumatic Attachment and Self-Destructive Behaviour WITH DR. JANINA FISHER



a professional development workshop for therapists and practitioners who want to learn from an expert in the field of trauma.

Dr. Janina Fisher, Ph.D  

Psychotherapist, Consultant, Trainer

We now understand that trauma’s imprint is both psychological and somatic: long after the events are over, the body continues to respond as if danger were ever-present. My professional mission has been to bring this understanding of trauma to both clients and their therapists as a psychotherapist, consultant, and trainer of clinicians looking for answers to helping their traumatized clients. I believe the key to healing is not just knowing what happened, but transforming how the mind, body, and soul still remember it.



Happy #BellLet'sTalk Day! Thank you to CBC's Matt Galloway and Producer Kerry Martin for taking such a keen interest in our program. We received a grant from the 'Bell Let's Talk Community Fund' to help support our bursary program in 2013. 

If you missed the interview with Barb Jessup, PRI's Director of Communications and alumni parent, on Metro Morning today (at 7:10 am!), here it is:  http://goo.gl/W5Cgzs

We hope you'll take a listen.