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.



We are very excited and proud to announce that Pine River Foundation CEO, Ann Dowsett Johnston, was honoured with CAMH's Transforming Lives Award on Wednesday night.  

For the full story, including a video of Ann on receiving the award, please click here.

Thank you to Bell Let's Talk Community Fund


Pine River Foundation is proud to be one of Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk Community Fund’s 2013 recipients!

Bell’s support of Pine River’s Bursary Program will assist more youth in crisis to access Pine River Institute’s care.

There is a growing demand for Pine River’s expert services, with a waiting list of over 160 youth in crisis. These youth (and their families) wait on average 6-8 months – a dangerously long time when a child is at risk of going missing, overdosing, or suicide.

Last month Bell representative, Kristine Wilson, visited the PRI campus on an unseasonably cold, snowy day to present Pine River Foundation with a $25,000.00 cheque.

A big THANK YOU to Bell Canada for this important investment in mental health and substance abuse care for youth.

From left: Kristine Wilson (Bell), Harvey Schipper (PRI Board), Karen Minden (CEO, PRF/Founder, PRI), Vaughan Dowie (CEO, PRI), John Fallis (Executive Director, PRI)
From left: Kristine Wilson (Bell), Harvey Schipper (PRI Board), Karen Minden (CEO, PRF/Founder, PRI), Vaughan Dowie (CEO, PRI), John Fallis (Executive Director, PRI)

Pine River Institute Reaccredited

PRI has received expedited reaccreditation from the Council on Accreditation. COA’s program of quality improvement is designed to identify providers that have met high performance standards, and have made a commitment to their stakeholders to deliver the very best quality services. Pine River is proud to be recognized by COA as an outstanding provider.

For more information on the Council of Accreditation please visit:  http://coanet.org/

Effectiveness of Residential Treatment for Substance Abusing Youth: Benefits of the Pine River Institute Program

Pine River’s Director of Research and Evaluation, Laura Mills, recently published this article in the journal Residential Treatment for Children & Youth. She and her co-authors, Deb Pepler (on PRI’s Research Advisory Committee), and Robert Cribbie (York University) investigated the benefits of Pine River’s treatment program for youth abusing substances. 

This distinguished journal offers peer-reviewed articles targeted specifically at the unique conditions of residential care. 

To read the full article please click here

This is a PDF of an electronic version of an article published in Residential Treatment for Children & Youth, Laura Mills MA PhD Cand , Debra Pepler PhD & Robert A. Cribbie PhD (2013) Effectiveness of Residential Treatment for Substance Abusing Youth: Benefits of the Pine River Institute Program, Residential Treatment For Children & Youth, 30:3, 202-226, DOI: 10.1080/0886571X.2013.819273

Annual Evaluation Report: Measuring Our Progress

Annual Report 2013

Special focus on mental health in the National Post

If you read the National Post last Thursday, you may have noticed a special section on Mental Health, including a focus on youth.  Kudos to Glenn Close and Michael Landsberg for sharing their personal stories.  Addressing the stigma is an important step toward making mental health a priority, and ultimately improving care, and access to care.

Click on the image below to read the publication:

Artists Show & Sale in support of Pine River at ArteMbassy

Join us

Thursday, May, 9th   5:00 – 9:00PM

For the Opening of the

ArteMbassy Studio Artists Show and Sale

In support of the Art Program @ The Pine River Institute

Show continues Friday and Saturday 12 - 6PM and

Sunday 12 - 2PM

Free parking available

28 Industrial Street #219