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Posted: Oct 11, 2007 13:09

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Catherine Freer
Albany, OR

Catherine Freer Responds To House Hearings

Media Contact:
Paul Smith

Julia Andrick

October 11, 2007

We support Rep. Miller and the Education Committee in doing what is possible to eliminate abusive and neglectful programs. At the same time, we believe it is important to preserve viable options for children and families in need of responsible and ethical therapeutic schools and programs. Our program has consistently supported regulations and standards for the treatment industry and we currently hold the highest level of state licensing and national accreditation that is available to us today.

Our hope is to have well-crafted and conceived regulations established that ensure that families and their children are protected, while preserving their freedom of choice regarding treatment options.

We want to share with you some information regarding the fatality at our program that the GAO investigated and which wasn't brought forth in either the GAO report or in the parent's testimony:

  • The day of the young woman's death, she had hiked less than two miles over a 5 hour period that included rest breaks in the shade. There was little elevation gain (approx 500'), in temperatures of high 70's. She consumed at least 1.5 liters of water that day.

  • The family's physician had prescribed an anti-convulsant (anti-seizure) medication for this young woman, which she was taking off-label for a mood disorder. (Off-label means taking a medication for something other than its intended purpose). The family physician cleared her for participation in our program knowing that she would be involved in strenuous physical activity.

  • A year after her death, the FDA came out with a warning about this medication, linking it to heat illnesses (heat exhaustion and heatstroke). It found that the medication inhibits one's ability to sweat (oligohydrosis), and makes it difficult for one's body to regulate internal temperatures through the normal mechanisms.

  • At the time of her admission into the program there were no pediatric trials on this drug and no research into how it interacted with legal medications, much less illegal street drugs.

  • Our Nevada branch was certified in the State of Nevada to operate as a drug and alcohol treatment program. We proactively met with the state Child Welfare Department to discuss our operations within the state and how our program could best adhere to their standards.

This fatality was thoroughly investigated and there was no finding of fault.

We would like to say that the loss of a loved one can be devastating. The loss of a young life is a particularly difficult tragedy for everyone that it touches. In a time of great grief and loss it is often soothing to have a concrete answer that explains why a tragedy or accident happens. Unfortunately, this clarity does not always exist.

About Catherine Freer Wilderness Therapy Programs
Since 1988, Catherine Freer's therapeutic wilderness program has provided thousands of troubled adolescents with the tools necessary to address behavioral and emotional issues and to make a new start. The program serves more than 300 adolescents annually. Licensed by the state of Oregon as both a substance abuse and mental health treatment program, the company also operates under Oregon's innovate Outdoor Youth Program guidelines. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHCO) accredits the company. Catherine Freer Wilderness Therapy Programs is a founding member of the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Industry Council and the National Association for Therapeutic Schools and Programs. For more information, please visit the web site at or call (800) 390-3983.

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