Pine River was the vision of a group of volunteers determined to address a critical gap in services for youth and families struggling with mental health issues and addictive behaviours. Along the spectrum of services available in Canada there was nothing for youth who needed comprehensive, long-term residential treatment. A fortunate few were able to seek help in the US.
A Rotary Club of Toronto Task Force evolved into an incorporated entity in 2001, and Karen Minden led the planning and implementation process to build a treatment centre that would respond to this long recognized need. Karen’s husband, Dr. Harvey Schipper, joined the board. Volunteering their own time and working with consultants – including support from the Rotary Club of Toronto – the team completed a report on the needs and services across the country, a clinical program design, and detailed operational plans. While those approached to carry the torch acknowledged the need, it became apparent that this volunteer team would have to garner private support and create the centre themselves.
By 2004 they had assembled a team, including Karen’s daughter Elyse Schipper and Samantha Yamada, who are co-founders of Pine River Institute. They completed the operational planning, while raising over $4 million dollars for The Way Back Campaign led by Don Wright, and welcomed the first student and family in June 2006.
From Left: Dr. Harvey Schipper, Pine River Foundation Member, Founding Board Member; Elyse Schipper Power, Pine River Foundation Member, co-founder of Pine River Institute, served in various roles including Director of Admissions, and Director of Communications and Development; Dr. Samantha Yamada, Pine River Foundation Member, co-founder of Pine River Institute, first Director of Research and Evaluation.
When Pine River opened its doors it was the only program of its kind in Canada. Word soon spread and inquiries and referrals steadily increased. In August 2007, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care began funding the program on a pilot basis. By 2009, they had permanent funding. The rest, as they say, is history.
Karen Minden, CM, PhD, was the founding CEO and together with a very dedicated Board of Directors, established a research and evaluation component right from the start. This would help to ensure program integrity, accountability to youth, families, and funders, and ongoing research that would contribute to the field of adolescent mental health and addiction treatment. Karen led all aspects of Pine River’s development and was awarded the Order of Canada for social service in 2010.
Karen established Pine River Foundation in 2010, and stepped aside as CEO of the Institute in 2011 to carry on as founding CEO of Pine River Foundation, a role she held through to her retirement in 2013. Karen and Harvey are now doting grandparents, but remain engaged as Pine River Foundation Members, along with co-founders Elyse Schipper Power and Dr. Samantha Yamada. Michael Morgan, Ron Crane and Stuart Hensman, Foundation Members and past Chairs of the Pine River Institute Board, also remain committed to Pine River.
Grand Opening in 2006 with then Mayor of Mulmur Township Gord Gallaugher, Past President of Rotary Club of Toronto Sylvia Milne, Founding Board Chair Ron Crane, Campaign Chair Don Wright, PRI &PRF Founder Karen Minden, Founding Board Member Michael Morgan, and co-founder Samantha Yamada.
Karen Minden has done a great deal to heighten awareness of the challenges of adolescent mental health care over the years through publications and interviews such as these: