This is a  staff list for Open Sky Wilderness Programs in Durango, CO

(we are working to acquire the complete records for ALL years)

 

We advise current and/or former staff to report any abuses you may have witnessed while working at the Open Sky Wilderness Programs.  For information on your rights and how to take action, visit www.heal-online.org/blowthewhistle.htm.  If you were fired or forced to resign because you opposed any illegal and/or unethical practices at Open Sky Wilderness Programs, you have the right to take action. 

 

If you were harmed (family or survivor) by Open Sky Wilderness Programs, please contact info@heal-online.org if you remember the long-term employees and from which years.  This will help!   Also, if you recognize any of these staff as having worked at another program, please send in any information about their past or present employment at other facilities and/or cults.

 

Please don’t place your loved one in Open Sky Wilderness Therapy and rescue them if they are there now.

 

Name

Unit/Position

Additional Information
Aaron Fernandes Executive Director/Founder/Owner Formerly worked for confirmedly abusive Aspen Achievement Academy.  Also formerly worked for Explorations in Montana.  Aspen Achievement Academy is located in UT.  Mr. Fernandes has held no professional titles (active/inactive/revoked) in the state of Utah.  He is not a licensed therapist, counselor, mental health nor medical professional.  Fernandes has held no professional titles in Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Emily Demong Founder/Owner/Therapist Emily C. Delong is a licensed clinical social worker in Utah and Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Lauren Lollini Owner/Admissions Lollini's was licensed as a registered psychotherapist in Colorado.  However, that license was cancelled.  Lollini is currently licensed as a licensed professional counselor in Colorado.  Lollini was licensed as a professional counselor in Utah.  However, that license has since expired.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Danny Frazer Marketing/Owner Danny Frazer does not hold any professional licenses in Colorado nor in Utah.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Jade Wimberley Health Director Jade Wimberley holds no professional licenses in Colorado.  Wimberley is licensed as a Naturopathic Physician in Utah.  She is licensed in Utah only and holds no licenses in Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Bob Beardsley Finance Director Robert/Bob Beardsley holds no professional licenses in Colorado nor in Utah.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Erin Pinkham Human Resources Erin Pinkham holds no professional licenses in Colorado nor in Utah.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Ellen Shinkle Field Director Ellen Shinkle holds no professional licenses in Utah nor in Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
David Boyle Asst. Field Director David Boyle holds no professional licenses in Colorado.  There is one David Boyle licensed as a professional engineer in Colorado.  But, being that such a license would not qualify one to work with teens in a wilderness setting, we believe it is likely a different person.  In Utah, there is a David Edward Boyle that's license as a Marriage and Family Therapist has expired.  It is uncertain whether or not the Boyle working for Open Sky is the same as the Boyle with the expired license in Utah.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Joanna Bettmann Research Director Bettmann is a licensed social worker in Utah.  Bettman is not licensed in Colorado.  Her license in Colorado is lapsed.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Katie Grace MacElveen Therapist MacElveen is a licensed professional counselor extern in Utah.  An extern is qualified to "job shadow" a legitimate and licensed counselor/professional.  MacElveen is a registered psychotherapist in Colorado. In addition, a registered psychotherapist specifically means "unlicensed" in the state of Colorado.  See: http://www.dora.state.co.us/mental-health/psy/PSYendorsement.pdf.   (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)  MacElveen graduated from The Union Institute.  The Union Institute is a correspondence school that provides no internships.  According to a complaints board regarding The Union Institute, their "PhD" program is bogus and not accredited.  This raises serious concerns regarding MacElveen's "qualifications". 
Fred Peipman Therapist Peipman is a licensed psychologist in Colorado and Utah.  Utah does not provide the educational background of Peipman.  Peipman was licensed as a psychologist in Colorado via "endorsement".  Licensure by endorsement requires that Peipman have been actively licensed as a psychologist in another state at the time of applying for licensure in Colorado.  Peipman claims to practice and be licensed in Colorado and Utah, but, this is not the case.  Peipman claims to be licensed in Florida on his own website at drfred.net.  Fred Peipman has an expired Real Estate Broker's license in Florida.  Fred Peipman is actively licensed in Florida, but, his place of business and address of record is 466 S. Skylane, Durango, CO and this address is shown below in the enrollment agreement review to be the address of StoneAge Tools (a manufacturing company).  This is a serious concern as it suggests additional falsification of information on documents filed with licensing agencies.  Peipman was granted a provisional license in Florida in 2002 and it was ruled "null and void" by that agency in 2004.  The provisional license was PPY91.  In 2004, he was licensed in FL as a psychologist.  But, the only address on record is the false address in Durango.   He was licensed in Colorado in 2006. (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html, https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php, https://www.myfloridalicense.com/wl11.asp?mode=0&SID= and http://ww2.doh.state.fl.us/IRM00PRAES/PRASLIST.ASP#theBottom )  He claims to have graduated from Yale (BA) in 1994 and the University of Miami (PhD) in 2002.  It can be fairly expensive to verify degrees, if you happen to check Peipman's out, please let us know the results.  You can use www.degreeverify.org to do so.
Paul Case Therapist Paul Wesley Case is a licensed psychologist in Colorado.  Case was first issued his license in Colorado in August, 2011.  However, he has been listed as a therapist at Open Sky since at least November, 2010.  This also suggests false advertising.  He is also licensed in Utah and has only been licensed in Utah since February, 2011.  Both Colorado and Utah claim he is licensed via the "endorsement" process, similar to Peipman above.  Case is a total "pimp" for the behavior modification programs.  (drpaulcase.com)  He is likely raking in the referral bucks.  It's doubtful he acts as anything but a salesperson to push "aftercare" placements on families.  This is a serious concern.  We were unable to find any information regarding his educational background or qualifications.  This includes no information on whatever state he claims to have been "endorsed" by in his applications in Utah and Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Heather Menzie Therapist Menzie is licensed as an Associate Professional Counselor in Utah and is a registered (unlicensed) psychotherapist in Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)   Utah shows her educational background as Naropa University.  There have been some reports of fraud and at least one lawsuit against Naropa University for misrepresentation.  See: http://buffalopost.net/?p=3814   This brings Menzie's credentials into question.  The fact that she is not licensed in Colorado is also a concern.
Rebecca Wildbear Therapist Wildbear is licensed as professional counselor in Utah and Colorado.  She has a M.S. degree supposedly from Johns Hopkins University.  If you choose to verify her degree from Johns Hopkins University, you will need to visit www.degreeverify.org.  The graduation date she claims is May 22nd, 1997.  The original issue date of her license in Utah is May 27th, 2005 and in Colorado is May of 2009.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Amy Donahue Clinical Asst. There are two Amanda Donahue's listed as having been licensed at some point in Colorado.  One was licensed as a Certified Nurse Aide and the other as a cosmetologist.  Both licenses have lapsed/expired.  There is no Amy Donahue listed as having any professional license in Colorado.  There is no evidence of anyone with the name Amy or any variation (i.e. Amanda) having ever been licensed in Utah.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Jonathan Kalman Naturopathic Doctor Kalman is not licensed in Colorado nor Utah.   (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Marcus Higi  Medical Director Marcus Higi is a licensed physician in Colorado.  But, his address on record in Colorado is 3301-r Coors Blvd NW, #292, Albuquerque, NM 87120 and the licensed was first issued in April, 2001.  Higi is a licensed surgeon in Utah.  His address on record with Utah is in Cortez, CO.  That license was first issued in 2005.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)  He earned his doctorate of medicine at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School.
Heather Shook Medical Asst. Shook is not licensed in Colorado nor is Shook licensed in Utah.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Tanya Dalebout Family Services Coordinator Dalebout is not licensed in Colorado nor in Utah.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Mark Braunstein Consultant If Mark Braunstein is Mark Aaron Braunstein, he is a licensed physician in Colorado and his license was obtained through the National Licensing Board in April, 2002.  He practices at Four Corners Mental Health in Durango, CO.  He is also licensed in Utah as an osteopathic surgeon.  The original issue date of his Utah license is May, 2007.  He earned his degree at the Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine.  Osteopathy is based on the philosophy that the body can heal itself and is considered "alternative medicine".  Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine is not nationally recognized nor properly accredited.  This raises serious concerns regarding the standards of Open Sky.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Jonathan Mitchell Therapist Jonathan Stein Mitchell (uncertain if it is same individual employed by Open Sky) is licensed as a professional counselor in Utah.  Mitchell was initially licensed in September, 2011.  This means he was not licensed in Utah at the time he was hired as a "therapist" at Open Sky.  Utah shows his educational background as Naropa University.  There have been some reports of fraud and at least one lawsuit against Naropa University for misrepresentation.  See: http://buffalopost.net/?p=3814   This brings Mitchell's credentials into question.  He is a licensed professional counselor in Colorado and was initially licensed in 2009.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Hannah Salander Therapist Salander is not licensed in Colorado nor Utah.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Damon Bryan Therapist Damon Paul Bryan (uncertain if it is same individual employed by Open Sky) is no longer licensed (expired) in Utah.  Damon Paul Bryan earned an MS at the University of Rhode Island.  Bryan is no longer licensed (lapsed) in Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Jason St. Mary Guide St. Mary is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Kyle Stansbury Guide Stansbury is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Norman Elizondo Guide Elizondo is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Marie Krueger Counselor Marie Beatrice Krueger (unclear if it is same person) is a registered, but unlicensed, psychotherapist in Colorado.  Krueger is not licensed in Utah.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Paul Arredondo Counselor Arredondo is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Stephanie Smith Admissions Smith and Stephanie Smith are too common of names to verify if individual is licensed.  We would need the middle initial/name.  You can visit any of the two links directly above with additional information to verify.
Jill Hutcheson Clinical Outreach Director Hutcheson is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Jim Martucci Operations Mgr. Martucci is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Adam Merce Co-Founder/Owner Merce is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Barry Livingston Logistics Livingston is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Scott Carlton Logistics Scott R Carlton is a licensed dentist in Utah.  But, it is unclear if this is the same person.  Scott Carlton is not licensed in Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Derek Daley Field Mgr. Daley is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Tim Murphy Field Mgr. Tim Murphy is not licensed in Utah.  And, there are too many Tim Murphy's licensed in various fields in Colorado to determine whether or not this Tim Murphy has an appropriate license for his position.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Alwyne Butler Field Guide Butler is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Andy D'Acquisto Guide Andrew D'Acquisto (if it is the same person) is not licensed in Utah.  But, was formerly licensed as a LPN in Colorado.  That license has lapsed/expired.  The license expired in 1984.
Brenda Hammerstrom Guide Hammerstrom is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Caitlin Standish Guide Standish is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Chris Moeller Guide If Chris stands for Christina, then Moeller may be a Registered Nurse in Colorado.  If not, Moeller is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.
Clementine Wilson Guide Wilson is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Daniel Rothman Guide Rothman is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
David Martin Guide Too many David Martin's registered under various professions in Colorado to determine without more information.  David Martin is not licensed in Utah.
Derek Craig Guide Craig is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Emily Isaacs Guide Isaacs is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Emily Rolando Guide Rolando is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Evan Meyer Guide Meyer is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Jessie Krebs Guide Krebs is not licensed in Utah.  A Jessi Marie Krebs was formerly licensed as a professional counselor in Colorado, but, the license has expired.  License was issued in 2008 and expired in 2009.
Karl Welter Guide Walter is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Kelly Ryan Guide Too many Kelly Ryan's in Colorado and Utah to determine if Ryan is licensed. 
Lisa Meerts-Brandsma Guide Meerts-Brandsma is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Mike Lewis Guide Too many Mike/Michael Lewis's in Colorado and Utah to determine if Lewis is licensed. 
Nancy Brittain Guide Nancy Ann Brittain is a licensed social service worker (uncertain if it is same Nancy working for Open Sky) in Utah.  But, Brittain is not licensed in Colorado.
Peggy Fulda Guide Fulda is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Pete Reynolds Guide Reynolds is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Robin Brodsky Guide Robin Jane Brodsky is a licensed professional counselor in Colorado (uncertain if it is same Robin working for Open Sky).  Brodsky is not licensed in Utah.
Sara Arredondo Guide Arredondo is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Tamar Nigogossian Guide Nigogossian is not licensed in Utah nor Colorado.  (Information found/not found at https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html and https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php)
Wes Smith Guide Smith is not licensed in Colorado.  There are too many Wes Smith's in Utah to determine whether or not this particular Wes Smith has any license in that state.
John Dupuy Counselor Reportedly worked at program in 2006.  Dupuy is not a licensed mental health nor medical professional in Colorado.  Source: https://www.colorado.gov/dora/licensing/Lookup/LicenseLookup.aspx
Pam Parsons Staff Parsons was a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Utah (not Colorado) from 2006 through 2009.  Her license expired and was never renewed.  Source: https://www.colorado.gov/dora/licensing/Lookup/LicenseLookup.aspx
*(Open Sky Wilderness Programs, like many other programs in this industry, keeps a "tight lid" on any specific information regarding their staff, qualifications, and practices.  Please contact us with the names of any staff of which you have firsthand knowledge or experience.  Thank you for your help.)
HEAL REVIEW: OPEN SKY WILDERNESS ENROLLMENT PACKET

HEAL has found multiple problems with Open Sky Wilderness's enrollment packet including apparent unconscionable terms and contradictory terms leaving us to believe that Open Sky Wilderness is running a money-making scam on families in need of assistance.  We will be alternating between the "quoted words" of Open Sky Wilderness in their enrollment agreement (as was downloaded from Openskywilderness.com on November 3rd, 2010) and HEAL's questions and concerns.  Included in this review are the minor enrollment agreement and adult enrollment agreement.  HEAL will not repeatedly link to the documents in full throughout this review, and, we advise readers to scroll back and/or open the enrollment agreement in a new window while reviewing our work for accuracy or if additional contextualization is preferred.  This is an independent review and if you are in need of legal assistance or advice, please consult with an attorney

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGE 1

"Notarized Power of Attorney"

"Participation Agreement, Release and Assumption of Risk"

"Consent for Release of Medical Information"

"Consent for Psychological Testing"

"Student Travel Form"

"The following document must be filled out, signed, and returned if you are willing to participate in our outcome research.:"

"Parental Permission and Consent Document for Research"

"Lauren Lollini"

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

On September 10th, 2011, one of our volunteers sent the following message to Lauren Lollini, Open Sky Wilderness' Admissions/Outreach Director:

"Dear Lauren,

I have cc'd Jim Jennings, the Licensor for your program at the Utah Office of Licensing on this message.  I am currently reviewing your program for a family advocacy organization with whom I work.  I hope you won't mind answering a few questions that have been raised based on your program materials.  

First, I have searched https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php for "Open Sky Wilderness Therapy" and could not find any record of your being licensed under that name in Colorado.  I understand that the parent company under which you operate is ACF Enterprises, LLC.  I also searched using the same link above for ACF Enterprises and that search returned no results.  The city I entered for the search was Durango.  Are you licensed by the State of Colorado in any way and can you provide any proof or evidence that you are licensed in Colorado?  If you are licensed, will you send us your License Number so I can verify it with the State of Colorado?  This would be of great help.

You also claim in your materials that you are licensed in both Utah and Colorado to operate your wilderness program.  As stated above, I was unable to verify that you are licensed in Colorado.  I was able to verify that you are licensed with the Office of Licensing in Utah and that your license number is 17914.  It claims your location is in Durango, CO and that you are licensed to operate an "Outdoor Youth Treatment" program in the Black Place, Bug Point/San Juan County areas of Utah.  Is there a reason you do not provide your physical location at 466 S. Skylane Dr., Durango, CO 81302 in your contracts/agreements?  Does StoneAge, Inc. also operate at this address and what association, if any, do you have with StoneAge, Inc.?  What does the manufacture of waterblast tools have to do with wilderness therapy?  Is Betsy Fitzpatrick a part of your program?  I have verified that StoneAge, Inc. is located at the address you list as the physical location of your program.  And, I have verified that StoneAge, Inc. is currently operating at that address.  Their website is at http://www.stoneagetools.com/.  I see that Bug Point is about 4 miles from the Utah/Colorado border.  I was unable to locate where Black Place is located.  Regardless, if you are not licensed in Colorado, it would appear to be a violation of Utah's licensing standards when programs operate in more than one state.  See: http://www.hslic.utah.gov/docs/checklist%20-%20outdoor%20youth.pdf   And, evidence of your licensure in Colorado would help clear up any misunderstanding.

In both your Enrollment Agreements for minors and adult clients, you include language regarding the use of escort services, runaways, and the use of restraint on both minor and adult clients.  All of these references suggest that your program may be involuntary for both minor and adult clients and that raises some concerns.  Are you concerned that having a legal adult escorted to your program and/or preventing them from leaving the program may constitute kidnapping or false imprisonment?  In what ways do you attempt to prevent adult clients from leaving the program once they arrive?  And, on what legal basis do you claim the right to prevent or hold a legal adult in this manner?  

What methods do you use in group therapy or individual therapy that indicate to you an inherent risk of psychological/emotional trauma/harm?  And, what efforts have you taken to reduce the risk of psychological/emotional trauma/harm in your program?  Do you use confrontational therapy?  Do you use positive peer pressure/culture?  Please explain.

Is there a specific model you use for the therapeutic aspects of your program?  And, can you describe the scientific or theoretical basis or "schools of thought" from which you derive the methods for your program?

I will leave my questions at that for now and appreciate your time.

Sincerely,

[Volunteer Identity Protected]"

 

Lauren Lollini replied stating that the reply was "confidential" and not to be distributed nor shared with third-parties.  HEAL will not post Lollini's reply per the directive in Lollini's message.  However, we will state that Lollini refused to answer the questions/concerns raised in the above e-mail message in writing and stated that she would only discuss those matters by phone.  The HEAL volunteer replied and re-stipulated that we prefer answers in writing due to veracity issues with similar programs and the ease in denying anything not stated in writing.  Lollini did not answer the questions and her sole response was requesting a telephone conversation.  This suggests to us that Open Sky Wilderness is deceptive and avoids accountability.  This is a serious concern.

Our volunteer requested a copy of Open Sky Wilderness' license as provided to Jim Jennings at the Utah Department of Licensing.  Jennings provided a copy of the license issued in Colorado.  Our volunteer also contacted Marlene Romero at the Colorado Division of Child Care.  Romero is a licensing specialist in that office and in charge of issuing licenses to child care providers.  Ms. Romero sent our volunteer a copy of Open Sky Wilderness' license.  The issue date, approval signature, and address on the license confirmed by Ms. Romero were different from those Open Sky Wilderness provided to the Utah Department of Licensing.  Ms. Romero stated by phone to our volunteer that Open Sky's address had changed from their original location.  However, Open Sky's original physical location has been a manufacturing plant since the 1970s and therefore it is highly unlikely that Open Sky ever legitimately operated from that address and highly likely they used it fraudulently.

We will address individual concerns regarding the various documents listed on page 1 as we move through this review.  We included them in the quotes from page 1 to provide a brief look at some of the documents that raised the most concerns for us.

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGE 2 [The enrollment agreement has an intro/cover letter that the .pdf lists as page 1.  However, Open Sky labels the enrollment agreement pages as beginning as page 1 on the .pdf page numbered as "2" or the second page.  For clarity, we will be using the .pdf document page number as the page number being reviewed.]

"Open Sky Wilderness Therapy PO Box 2201 Durango, CO 81302"

"This enrollment agreement is made effective as of this _____ day of ____________, 20___, by and between the above listed parties.  In this Agreement, the party who is agreeing to receive services will be referred to as the "Client."  The party providing the services, Open Sky Wilderness Therapy, ACF Enterprises, LLC, a Colorado Limited Liability company, and its officers, directors, shareholders, employees and agents will collectively be referred to as "Open Sky."

"Assuming the Student is accepted into the Program, the term of this Agreement shall be a minimum of 35 days beginning with the Student's arrival date.  On the Arrival Date, Client shall transfer, by a Power of Attorney in the form received and executed by Client, temporary custody of the Student to Open Sky for the duration of the period specified in the Agreement, plus any periods of extension as appended to the Agreement period, unless either party terminates this Agreement prior thereto by giving written notice to the other party pursuant to paragraph 25 herein or until the Student attains the age of 18."

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

It is a serious concern that Open Sky Wilderness Therapy does not include there physical office/address in their contracts and paperwork.  Given that this address appears to have been stated fraudulently on at least one of their licenses, it raises serious concerns. 

In our review of page 1 and e-mail to Ms. Lollini, we had not found nor confirmed Open Sky/ACF's licensure in CO.  On February 6th, 2012, we received an e-mail that provided us with additional documentation from a third-party which we confirmed with the Secretary of State in Colorado. Open Sky Wilderness Therapy and ACF Enterprises, LLC are licensed limited liability companies in Colorado.  ACF Enterprises' license number is 20051328226 and it has been licensed since August 30th, 2005 in Colorado as a limited liability company operating at 1970 East 3rd Avenue, Suite 205, Durango, CO 81301.  And, ACF Enterprises' limited liability license to "do business as" Open Sky Wilderness Therapy is 20051328226 and the address ACF claims to operate Open Sky out of in Colorado on official documents is 0680 Spruce Valley Drive, PO Box 2667, Breckenridge, CO 80424.  The phone number associated with the address provided in (970)547-0986.  That is the residential and home address of Anthony Fernandes.  The different addresses used and fake address used with other agencies in Colorado continue to raise serious concerns regarding Open Sky Wilderness Therapy.

We have included the minimum stay in order to assist with calculating the minimum cost which will be discussed below.  HEAL has received reports from parents that Open Sky Wilderness Therapy attempts to strong-arm/coerce parents into sending children who have completed Open Sky to long-term residential programs.  Recently, a parent wrote to us stating, "Hi there my son is in a wilderness therapy program called Open Sky they are recommending aftercare at a few of the places mentioned on your warning list here. I am in a position of feeling extreme pressure to "get on board" with the decision to place him in aftercare and do not want to have my child placed in out of home aftercare."  It is our suspicion that Open Sky likely receives kickbacks for referrals to "aftercare" and/or long-term residential programs.  And, it is a serious concern that they attempt to manipulate parents into agreeing to such when it is not in the best interest of the child or the family.

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGE 3

"Open Sky may determine at this time that said Student is clinically or medically inappropriate for placement.  If Student is discharged at this time I/we agree to pay for the return trip home or for travel expenses to another placement.  I/we understand that we will be charged only for the days (any day spent at Open Sky is counted as a full day) that the Student is enrolled."

"I/we understand that the cost of the Open Sky Wilderness Therapy program is $485/day plus an enrollment fee of $2,000.  Payments may be made by check, certified check, wire transmission, or credit card (MasterCard, Visa or American Express).  Full payment of $18,975 for the first 35 days and the enrollment and the enrollment fee must be paid in full on or before the Student's arrival date.  The enrollment fee is non-refundable and ensures that a space is held for the Student."

"I/we understand that if enrollment is cancelled by the Client(s) less than 5 days prior to the arrival date Open Sky will retain the enrollment fee.  All notices of cancellation must be in writing."

"If the Student is discharged prematurely for medical or clinical reasons, which Open Sky retains the right to do, full refund of monies on a per day rate will be given after deduction of cost for received services.  I/we will not hold Open Sky responsible for any consequences that result from the student's premature discharge."

"If Client(s) withdraw(s) Student before expiration of the minimum period of enrollment without the recommendations of the Open Sky therapist, Client(s) forfeit(s) the remaining balance of the minimum stay."

"If Student attempts to run away, Open Sky will make every reasonable effort to find the Student as quickly as possible.  I/we hereby release, hold harmless, and indemnify Open Sky from any and all liability arising out of or resulting from the Student running away while enrolled at Open Sky.  Any costs incurred by the Student if he/she runs away from Open Sky and expenditures made by Open Sky in the pursuit of the student will be paid by the Student's parents/guardians."

"I/we give permission for my Student to receive a physical examination as required by the physical examination portion of this application by MD, ND, DO, RN, PA, or LNP as contracted by Open Sky.  I/we give my consent for Open Sky to seek medical, hospital, dental, or psychiatric attention in the event of injury or illness and to provide emergency first aid as needed in the field until such care can be reached.  I/we authorize any professional who provides treatment to the student to release information to Open Sky."

"I/we acknowledge that all costs incurred as a result of injury, illness or treatment remains my/our responsibility.  I/we acknowledge that all costs of medication while Student is enrolled in the program are my/our responsibility.  I/we understand that visits with a naturopathic physician are included in tuition; however nutritional supplements are an additional expense and that these expenses will be charged to my/our account at the end of the Student's stay unless prior arrangements have been made."

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

Open Sky Wilderness Therapy is not licensed as a behavioral health, mental health, nor medical services provider.  Open Sky Wilderness is not licensed, and arguably not qualified, to determine whether or not a child is mentally and/or physically capable of handling the rigors of the program.  This is a serious concern as the name of the program implies it is a licensed therapeutic program, when it is not licensed as a mental nor physical therapy provider.

The $18,975 includes the non-refundable enrollment fee and covers the "minimum stay" required by Open Sky.  The minimum stay is 35 days.  If you were to calculate the minimum cost of Open Sky Wilderness Therapy for one year (365 days) of service, the total would be $179,025 (including the non-refundable enrollment fee).  To put this is comparative terms, it costs 3.5 times or approximately 350% more than one year at Harvard University (including counseling, room, and board).  "Harvard University will increase tuition next school year by 3.8 percent, the school announced yesterday, bringing the annual cost of a Harvard education, including room and board, to $50,724." (Source: boston.com, March 19th, 2010)   Keep in mind, Harvard provides licensed counselors and world-class educational services.  And, Open Sky Wilderness is not accredited as a school nor licensed as a therapeutic services provider.  So, it raises serious concerns.  Open Sky also does not accept any responsibility or liability in the event of serious injury or death of someone enrolled.  And, the extraordinary fees are not to cover the risks incurred by subjecting children to their methods.  It is all about profit.  The cost of the program, when considered with the lack of accountability of the program, more than suggests an unconscionable contract.  This is a serious concern.

The enrollment fee itself is excessive given the lack of licensing and lack of legitimacy of services "offered" by this program.  HEAL would advise against throwing money away by enrolling a child in this program.

There appears to be a discrepancy in the total amount to be charged in the event Open Sky chooses to discharge (a medical term, typically) a child from the program.  Mind you, a child may be expelled from a school.  And, Open Sky is not a school.  And, a child may be discharged from a hospital, mental health, or medical services provider.  However, Open Sky is not a licensed mental health nor medical services provider.  So, the word discharge implies a qualification that Open Sky does not meet and suggests deceptive practices on the part of Open Sky.  Regardless, in the first paragraph of page 3 quoted above, Open Sky claims families will only be charged per day in the event a child is dismissed from the program prematurely.  This is contradicted in the event a child is removed by parents (to be discussed below) and in the 4th paragraph of page 3 quoted above.  The 4th paragraph claims a per diem charge to be assessed in addition to supposed charges for "services received".  This appears to be a contradictory term and raises additional concerns.

It is a serious concern and an apparent unconscionable term to keep the full amount of paid if a family wises up and removes their child from this program.  If Open Sky can choose to dismiss a "student" at will from the program, parents should retain the right to remove the child at will from the program with the same terms applied.

It is a serious concern that Open Sky demands to be indemnified in the event of the disappearance of a child from the program that they can excuse as a "runaway".  Open Sky charges a grotesquely high fee that should cover any costs associated with an expected risk such as a child running away from what is likely an unprofessional and dangerous environment.

First, there is no such thing, as far as HEAL can determine, as an LNP.  We assume that Open Sky was referring to an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse).  LPN's are not qualified to provide a medical examination nor to determine the fitness of an individual for participation in any activity such as those organized by Open Sky. 

"The licensed practical nurse gives nursing care under the direction of the RN, licensed physician or licensed dentist which does not require the specialized skill, judgment and knowledge required of a RN. This includes but it not limited to assisting the RN in the planning, implementation and evaluation of nursing care, observing, recording, reporting, and performing procedures for which the LPN has the necessary degree of skill and judgment. The LPN shall not be supervised by unlicensed personnel."

 

So, according to the above quoted text from the Mississippi Board of Nursing, an LPN is not to provide unsupervised care and is not qualified to provide an assessment of any patient.  This further shows the incompetence and "cutting corners" mentality of Open Sky and raises serious concerns regarding the quality of service and care received by "students" enrolled in the program.

We have been putting the word "student" in quotes to note the fact that Open Sky is not a school and should not refer to children enrolled in the program as students.  Doing so further suggests deceptive practices on the part of Open Sky.

Does Open Sky fail to provide nutritionally balanced meals to children while enrolled?  If so, is that why nutritional supplements are sold to the families at extra charge in order to compensate for failure to provide nutritionally balanced and adequate meals to children participating in the rigors of a wilderness program?  Families and individuals should review the National Institute of Health's statement regarding dietary supplements.  Below is a quote from the National Institute of Health's statement: (Source: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/supplements/wiseuse.htm)

"Keep in mind that although many dietary supplements (and some prescription drugs) come from natural sources, "natural" does not always mean "safe." For example, the herbs comfrey and kava can cause serious harm to the liver. Also, a manufacturer's use of the term "standardized" (or "verified" or "certified") does not necessarily guarantee product quality or consistency.

Be aware that an herbal supplement may contain dozens of compounds and that its active ingredients may not be known. Researchers are studying many of these products in an effort to identify active ingredients and understand their effects in the body. Also consider the possibility that what's on the label may not be what's in the bottle. Analyses of dietary supplements sometimes find differences between labeled and actual ingredients."

Most "naturopathic physicians" act as their own pharmacists and profit from the sale of the supplements they "prescribe".  This is another issue to keep in mind before agreeing to have your child placed on dietary supplements.

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGE 4

"I/we understand that the Open Sky treatment team may recommend psychiatric services with a MD-level psychiatrist as part of my Student's treatment plan.  I/we acknowledge that there is an additional expense beyond the cost of tuition for these services of: $350/initial session of one hour and $50 for each additional 1/2 hour; $150 for follow up session of 1/4 hour and $25 for each additional 1/4 hour...If my Student receives psychiatric services while at Open Sky I/we agree to pay for the costs incurred of these services."

"I/we understand that the Open Sky treatment team may recommend psychological testing with a PhD-level psychologist as part of my Student's treatment plan.  I/we acknowledge that there is an additional expense of $2300 for this service."

"In certain situations, it is deemed therapeutically appropriate to use an intervention to help foster, further or "jump start" progress for a student.  This intervention is called a "Quest" and involves the student leaving the peer group team and working one-on-one with two specified field guides.  Due to the intensive nature of this intervention there is an additional $250/day fee.  Should the Open Sky treatment team find it necessary for my Student to participate in a Quest, I/we agree to pay for the additional charge."

"In certain situations, the Open Sky treatment team may recommend a "Family Quest" for the student and some combination of family members.  Family Quests are 3 days and 2 nights in length and are facilitated by Open Sky staff.  Due to the intensive nature of this intervention there is an additional fee of $4200 for the Family Quest, which covers staffing, food, gear, and logistical support.  Should I/we choose to participate in a Family Quest with my/our Student, I/we agree to pay for the additional charge."

"All personal gear issued to the Student remains the property of the Student, who must assume full responsibility for care, upkeep and replacement cost of the gear is lost or destroyed by the Student.  Client agrees to accept full responsibility for: (1) the repair or replacement of any property damaged, defaced or destroyed by the Student, whether owned, leased or controlled by Open Sky or any third party; (2) personal injury to any Open Sky personnel, other student or third party caused, in whole or in part, by the Student; and (3) to promptly reimburse Open Sky for any costs and expenses, including legal and/or medical fees, it may incur in connection therewith.  I understand that Open Sky uses Positive Control Systems Non Violent Crisis Intervention Programs.  Physical restraint of students is used only after verbal de-escalation has been exhausted and/or proved ineffective and is used only in the following scenarios: 1) imminent harm to self; 2) imminent harm to others."

"I/we agree to pay in full and make arrangements for the Student to travel to and from Open Sky.  I/we agree that any such arrangements will be made with professional transport agencies and that Open Sky has no responsibility or culpability for any events which occur during the escort process."

"I/we understand that I/we am admitting my child to a Colorado-based program but that due to the nature of the four corner's region, Open Sky is licensed in both Colorado and Utah.  I give permission for my child to be transported between CO and UT during his/her stay at Open Sky."

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

Legitimate mental health services from qualified psychologists and psychiatrists are contracted out to third-parties for which there are additional charges.  This, along with the fact that Open Sky is not licensed as a behavioral health, mental health, nor medical facility, raises serious concerns regarding the cost of the program weighed against the services provided.  The use of language such as "treatment team" and "treatment plan" also imply that Open Sky Wilderness is a mental health services provider.  However, it is not so licensed and this further suggests deceptive practices at Open Sky.

Most, if not all, of the field guides employed by Open Sky are not licensed mental health professionals.  This is a serious concern given that they are charged with implementing "intensive interventions" at an additional cost.  If Open Sky were to determine that psychiatric contracting, psychological contracting, and such an intervention were necessary, it would cost at minimum an additional $3200 on top of the extraordinary charges in the form of "tuition" costs.  It is also inappropriate for Open Sky to use the word "tuition" to describe its fees as it is not a properly accredited educational program.

If all of the above and a "Family Quest" are deemed recommended/necessary, the total additional fees would be $7400 at a minimum.  These fees are extraordinary given the lack of qualifications of the field guides.  (See staff information above for more details.)

Positive Control Systems is also the system used by WWASPS (www.heal-online.org/turley.pdf, www.heal-online.org/crosscreek.htm), Aspen Education Group  (www.heal-online.org/aspenache.htm, www.heal-online.org/ale.htm, etc.) and many other notoriously fraudulent and abusive programs.  This raises serious concerns regarding Open Sky's policies and procedures.  Please see www.heal-online.org/utah.htm for more information on the issues with Positive Control Systems.  Positive Control Systems is not even licensed.

It is a serious concern that Open Sky recommends the use of hired kidnappers to transport children to the program.  Many survivors of wilderness and residential programs have stated that the experience of being abducted from their home, school, or off the street by strangers and then transported to an undisclosed location without their knowledge or consent causes severe post traumatic stress.  Any program that advises or supports the use of such a service is not acting in the best interest of the child or the family.  This is a serious concern.

It is very dangerous to permit anyone to transport a child across state lines.  While on the surface, such a requirement seems reasonable enough, given the nature of the program and the issues with Utah, specifically, it is unwise to permit the child to be transported to Utah.  See www.heal-online.org/utah.htm for more information.

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGE 5

"I/we assume and acknowledge that living in the outdoors brings the possibility of injury or illness in the normal course of events.  I/we agree to release, hold harmless and indemnify Open Sky from any and all liability arising out of or resulting from any injury or illness which occurs while the Student is enrolled.  I/we agree to release, hold harmless, and indemnify Open Sky from any and all liability arising out of or resulting from any medical condition which is self-inflicted by the Student while enrolled, including without limitation any self-inflicted injury or illness."

"I understand that communication with my child happens via letter writing and family therapy via telephone."

"I/we agree that photos may be taken of the Student for Open Sky's for the purpose of sending photos to us.  I/we understand and give permission for the Student's group photos to be posted for all families in her/his group."

"I/we acknowledge and understand that photographs taken for the purpose of illustrating Open Sky's programs and services may include photographs of student and family members.  I/we hereby agree that Open Sky may namelessly display these photographs on the Open Sky website, print materials, or any publication authorized by Open Sky."

"I/we give permission that information from the Student's records may be used to participate in research projects with the understanding that confidentiality of the Student will be maintained."

"I/we authorize Open Sky to transmit personal communications from the Student via a secure, password protected webpage.  I/we understand that errors may occur and I/we release Open Sky from any and all liability for errors in the transmission of personal communications between my child and myself/ourselves.  I/we agree to keep confidential the nature of any communication that I/we may receive in error regarding other Open Sky clients and to notify Open Sky immediately if this occurs.  I/we grant permission for my Open Sky therapist and, if applicable, my Education Consultant to read mail and see photos posted to the secure parent web page."

"For this reason, I/we hereby agree to confidentiality in reference to other Open Sky families, their names, stories or other information I/we might become privy to before, during and after my child's participation at Open Sky."

"I/we acknowledge that Open Sky complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1999.  To review our detailed HIPAA policy, please contact the Open Sky office."

"The Client and Open Sky (the "Parties") desire to resolve any dispute, whether based on contract, tort, statute or other legal or equitable theory arising out of or related to this Agreement (including amendments or extensions), or the breach or termination of this Agreement (the "Dispute") without litigation.  Accordingly, the Parties agree to use the following alternative dispute resolution procedures as the sole means to resolve the Dispute."

"Negotiations: Mediation.  At the written request of a Party, each Party will appoint a knowledgeable, responsible representative to meet and negotiate in good faith to resolve the Dispute.  The location, format, frequency, duration, and conclusion of these discussions shall be left to the discretion of the representatives.  Upon agreement, the representatives may utilize other alternative dispute resolution procedures such as mediation to assist in the negotiations.  Discussions and correspondence among the representatives for the purposes of these negotiations shall be treated as confidential information developed for the purposes of settlement, exempt from discovery, and shall not be admissible in the arbitration described below or in any lawsuit without the concurrence of the Parties." [Ends on Page 6]

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

Open Sky is in charge of choosing the location and activities.  Open Sky charges an extraordinary amount and accepts no responsibility that may result from its own choices in regards to program location, activities, and operation.  This is unreasonable and goes against public policy and laws related to the responsibility of those entrusted with a child's care.  This is a serious concern.

Children are not allowed to have private/unmonitored phone calls with their families or others.  And, as will be shown below, letters are scanned and sent via internet and therefore, monitored as well.  This creates an environment in which a child cannot communicate harm or mistreatment to anyone, including family and authorities.  This is a dangerous practice and listed among the warning signs of an abusive program at www.heal-online.org/warn.htm

It is a violation of the child's privacy rights to allow his/her photograph to be used publicly for promotion/marketing of the program.  Parents have the right to waive their own rights, but, not the rights of their minor children.  See www.heal-online.org/legalarguments.htm for more information.  It is a serious concern that Open Sky seeks to conspire with parents to violate the rights of a child.  And, this further gives basis for not trusting Open Sky with children.

It is a serious concern that there is a suggested agreement to subject a child to research without the nature of the research being disclosed and informed consent from both the child and the family.  This suggests a violation of the Nuremberg Code.  Based on Open Sky's willingness to ignore a child's rights in other areas and the law to some extent as described above, this is a serious concern.

Open Sky accepts no responsibility for the disclosure of personal information if it can be excused as "error".  This is a concern and will be addressed further in regards to Open Sky's claims regarding HIPAA compliance below.

Open Sky, like many fraudulent and/or abusive programs, does not want families and individuals who have been exposed to Open Sky communicating with each other directly.  This is to avoid a possible class action and to claim that it is out of concern that such interaction is prohibited by the contract.  This is a serious concern as it places the interests of Open Sky above the interests of the individuals and families (clients/participants) exposed to Open Sky.

Open Sky is not a licensed medical, mental health, nor behavioral health services provider and therefore is not subject to HIPAA regulations.  Open Sky claiming to be HIPAA compliant is the equivalent of a vegetarian claiming to always use safe meat preparation standards.  Vegetarians don't use meat and therefore any claim of using safe meat preparation standards is irrelevant.  And, Open Sky, being unregulated by HIPAA since it is not licensed as a mental health nor medical services provider, claiming to be HIPAA compliant, is equally irrelevant. 

Open Sky does not want to be scrutinized by the courts and is attempting to circumvent exposure to a legitimate court of law with its arbitration/dispute resolution requirements.  This is a serious concern.  Utah courts have been repeatedly ignoring consumer protection laws and going by the four corners rule in enforcing contracts, even when those contracts are unconscionable and/or illegal.  This is a serious concern and puts families at risk of exploitation and great loss.

Open Sky wants all evidence to be provided on both sides in the arbitration process and then for all of that evidence to be excluded, unless both parties agree to include the evidence, should the case go to a court of law.  This suggests a desire to cover up wrongdoing on the part of Open Sky and further establishes a strong basis for avoiding Open Sky at all costs.

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGE 6

"If the negotiations do not resolve the Dispute within sixty (60) days of the initial written request, the Dispute shall be submitted by either Party or both Parties (with a copy provided to the other Party) to binding arbitration pursuant to the Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association (the "Rules")."

"The arbitration shall be held in La Plata County, Colorado and there shall be on arbitrator.  Such arbitrator shall be chosen subject to the Rules... The decision of the arbitrator shall be final and binding on all Parties, and shall be enforceable in any court of competent jurisdiction."

"Any claim by either Party shall be time-barred if the asserting Party commences arbitration with respect to such claim later than two years after the cause of action accrues.  All statutes of limitation and defenses based upon passage of time applicable to any claim of a defending Party (including any counterclaim or claim of setoff) shall be tolled while the arbitration is pending."

"Each Party shall bear its own costs, expenses and attorney's fees; provided that if court proceedings to stay litigation or compel arbitration are necessary, the Party who unsuccessfully opposes such proceedings shall pay all reasonable associated costs, expenses, and attorney's fees in connection with such court proceedings."

"If any provision of this Agreement will be held to be invalid or unenforceable for any reason, the remaining provisions will continue to be valid and enforceable.  If a court finds that any provision of this Agreement is invalid or unenforceable, but that by limiting such provision it would become valid and enforceable, then such provision will be deemed to be written, construed, and enforced as so limited."

"Client irrevocably agrees and hereby consents and submits to the exclusive jurisdiction of any state or federal court located in Colorado with regard to any actions or proceedings arising from, related to, or in connection with the Client's obligations to Open Sky or this Agreement... Client hereby waives any right Client may have to transfer or change the venue of any litigation filed in such courts."

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

The official website of the American Arbitration Association is www.adr.org.  But, on December 8th, 2011, that website was off-line and unavailable.  From what is available online, the Commercial Arbitration Rules appear to be specifically geared to resolve disputes between businesses who have contracted with each other.  For instance, when an office park hires a contractor to install a new building or an electrician to bring the building up to code.  It does not appear that such would be the appropriate rules to apply to a consumer/business arbitration process.  For information on concerns and consumer complaints regarding being subjected to an arbitration process, visit  http://www.tortdeform.com/archives/2007/01/i_had_heard_of_the_american_ar.html and  http://www.citizen.org/congress/article_redirect.cfm?ID=7332

There appear to be only 89 Arbitration lawyers in La Plata County.  And, all of them are located in Durango.  This places a local bias in favor of Open Sky and raises serious concerns regarding the fairness of the outcome.  By specifying the arbitration clause, Open Sky is promoting the very business that these attorneys practice locally.  And, this may create an ethical barrier to justice for families forced to limit their options to an individual practicing in Durango.  The arbitration clause and other issues raised above suffice for reasons to avoid Open Sky. 

The Statute of Limitations for filing a civil suit is two years.  However, there are circumstances under which the Statute of Limitations can be extended or eliminated.  It depends on the cause of action, the time of discovery, and/or whether or not the injured party is a minor.  This is something that should be discussed with an attorney.  Please see www.heal-online.org/legal.htm for more information.

Open Sky knows or should know the legal issues involved with its practices and contracts and the risks involved with such.  It is unreasonable to force unwitting consumers to pay for the attorney's fees of a company that has already over-charged for dubious services.

Open Sky probably already knows which portions of the contract would be deemed illegal and/or unconscionable.  And, it is the fact that they do not operate from a place of good faith and fair dealing in their contractual requirements that supports HEAL's position that signing any contract with Open Sky is unwise.

If Open Sky wishes to encourage and advertise to individuals outside of Colorado to send their children to Colorado, then they should accept the risk of litigation or arbitration in the home state of their client(s).  If they do not wish to be subject to the jurisdictions of other states, they should not accept clients from other states.

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGE 7

"This Agreement shall be construed in all respects in accordance with the laws of the State of Colorado, without regard to conflicts of laws principles that would require the application of any other law."

"In the event a suit or action is brought by any party under this Agreement to enforce any of its terms, conditions, covenants, or in any appeal thereof, it is agreed that the prevailing party shall be entitled to all reasonable attorney's fees."

"I/we agree to pay all costs and expenses incurred in collection of any past due amounts, including court costs and attorney's fees whether incurred prior to or subsequent to any litigation.  In addition, I/we agree to pay finance charges of 12% APR as outlined on the financial page of this application."

"This Agreement contains the entire agreement of the parties with respect to the subject matter of the Agreement.  This Agreement supersedes any prior written or oral agreements between the parties.  Any modification to this Agreement of any kind must be in writing and signed by the party obligated under the modification."

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

It is a minor concern that Open Sky seeks to override the laws of other states and/or the rights of their clients under state and federal law by waiver of such rights.  It is unreasonable to require individuals to waive their rights unless the benefit received justifies such a waiver.  Given that Open Sky does not accept any liability or responsibility for any harm that may come to its clients, such a waiver of rights is not justified and is a cause of concern.

The 2nd and 3rd quoted statements above appear to contradict each other.  The 2nd states that the prevailing party is entitled to recovery of attorney's fees and the 3rd states that regardless of who prevails, the clients are responsible for compensating Open Sky for attorney's fees.  This is a minor concern.

It is important that parents considering Open Sky understand that nothing of real value has been promised or offered in the contract itself and that it appears to be an illusory contract on its face.  This raises serious concerns regarding the ethics and apparent misrepresentations made by Open Sky and further provides cause for avoiding enrolling any child in Open Sky.

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGE 8

"Tuition Information"

"Daily tuition applies to every day that your child is enrolled at Open Sky Wilderness Therapy ("Open Sky").  The daily tuition is $485.00/day as well as a one-time $2,000 enrollment fee.  An initial payment of $18,975, which covers the first 35 days and the enrollment fee, is required for your child's enrollment in the program...Additional time in the program will be billed in weekly increments based on the child's need and parental approval.  Late payments will accrue finance charges at 12% APR."

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

The $18,975 includes the non-refundable enrollment fee and covers the "minimum stay" required by Open Sky.  The minimum stay is 35 days.  If you were to calculate the minimum cost of Open Sky Wilderness Therapy for one year (365 days) of service, the total would be $179,025 (including the non-refundable enrollment fee).  To put this is comparative terms, it costs 3.5 times or approximately 350% more than one year at Harvard University (including counseling, room, and board).  "Harvard University will increase tuition next school year by 3.8 percent, the school announced yesterday, bringing the annual cost of a Harvard education, including room and board, to $50,724." (Source: boston.com, March 19th, 2010)   Keep in mind, Harvard provides licensed counselors and world-class educational services.  And, Open Sky Wilderness is not accredited as a school nor licensed as a therapeutic services provider.  So, it raises serious concerns.  Open Sky also does not accept any responsibility or liability in the event of serious injury or death of someone enrolled.  And, the extraordinary fees are not to cover the risks incurred by subjecting children to their methods.  It is all about profit.  The cost of the program, when considered with the lack of accountability of the program, more than suggests an unconscionable contract.  This is a serious concern.

It also appears unreasonable to charge a finance charge to families seeking help.  And, the finance charge applied appears excessive and not in-line with typical late payment fees.  The use of the word "tuition" is also misleading as Open Sky is not a school.

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGE 10

"Continuum of Care Agreement"

"Weekly Open Sky group teleconferences for parents"

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

The "group teleconferences" are the only telephone contact parents typically have with the program and with their child.  These are not private conversations and will be terminated if the child reveals any wrongdoing by the program and/or does not praise the program.  This is a serious concern as it does not provide ample opportunity for a child to report injury or harm to parents or authorities. 

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGE 11

"The student, ___________, (print student's name) has no mental or physical problems or limitations that might affect the Student's ability to participate in the Open Sky Wilderness Therapy program that have not been disclosed to Open Sky Wilderness Therapy in writing.  I have had the opportunity to ask questions about the program activities and the risks of the program in which the Student will participate.  I understand and acknowledge that the program in which the Student will participate has risks and it is impossible to anticipate every activity in which the Student will engage.  The activities will depend on the program and may be physically strenuous.  These activities may be instructional, educational, or adventurous and may include but are not limited to: hiking, backpacking, camping, including cooking over stoves, open fires or by other means, jogging, walking, and running.  I understand that the Student may engage in other activities not listed above."

"It is impossible to know or list every risk associated with every activity.  Some, but not all, of the risks the Student may encounter include: unpredictable or harsh weather; lightning; exposure to high altitude, avalanches and rock fall, rapidly moving water including whitewater; drowning; wild animals; disease carrying or poisonous insects and animals; improper or malfunctioning equipment; slipping, falling or being struck by objects or persons; risks caused or complicated by any mental, physical, or emotional conditions that any participant may have."

"Another risk is the potential misjudgment by Open Sky Wilderness Therapy counselors, instructors, volunteers, other staff members, co-participants or contractors related to the Student's participation, including but not limited to decisions regarding the Student's physical condition and capabilities, weather, water, terrain, route or medical treatment.  I acknowledge that participating in the Open Sky Wilderness Therapy program involves inherent risks and other risks, hazards, and dangers including some not listed above that can cause or lead to death, injury, illness, property damage, mental or emotional trauma, or disability.  Furthermore, activities may take place several hours or days from any medical facility and where communication, transportation, or evacuation is subject to delay.  I understand that Open Sky Wilderness Therapy cannot assure the Student's safety or eliminate all of these risks."

"Knowing the inherent risks, dangers and rigors involved in the Open Sky Wilderness Therapy program, I certify that the Student is fully capable of participating in the program activities."

"I assume full responsibility for myself and the Student for bodily injury, death, loss of personal property and expense thereof, as a result of my negligence or the Student's negligence."

"I agree on behalf of myself and the Student to assume all of the risks of the activities of the Student's Open Sky Wilderness Therapy program."

"In consideration of ____________________________ (print minor/student's name) being permitted by Open Sky Wilderness Therapy to participate in its activities and to use its equipment and facilities, I further agree to indemnify and hold harmless Open Sky Wilderness Therapy from any and all claims which are brought by, or on behalf of Minor, and which are in any way connected with such use or participation by Minor."

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

Open Sky Wilderness Therapy claims to be qualified and to have medical and mental health professionals on staff.  It would appear they would be in the best position to know the expectations of their program and through their own experience and "expertise" to determine whether a child can handle the program.  Regardless, Open Sky Wilderness knows or should know that a child enrolled may or may not have been properly physically and mentally examined prior to enrollment.  And, Open Sky Wilderness knows or should know that the exact nature of their program and the expectations on participants has not been clearly defined to any physicians or mental health professionals affirming the capability of a child to participate in unknown and undisclosed activities.  For instance, Open Sky does not claim to have expert wilderness guides and therefore accepts no responsibility for any harm caused to children exposed to the elements.  And, Open Sky claims that backpacking, running, hiking, etc. are all included activities or probable activities, but, it fails to disclose the amount of hiking and running expected daily and the weight of the backpacks and any recommendations against forcing growing children to carry backpacks weighing more than a certain percentage of their body-weight.  Wearing overly heavy backpacks can cause life-long physical disability and it is irresponsible and unwise to enroll a child in a program that does not know and/or does not care if its practices are likely to cause permanent harm.  This is a serious concern.

Open Sky should keep a record of all activities and apparent or discovered risks involved with those activities to include in information provided to prospective clients/participants.  Failing to do so places parents in a role of ignorant decision-making, which, may be determined to be negligence in a court of law.  If a parent's agreeing to the terms of this apparently illusory and unconscionable contract appears unreasonable and/or negligent, this would appear to absolve Open Sky of any liability even if its own misconduct results in serious injury or death of the child.  This is a serious concern.

It is a serious concern that one of the named risks of this program are that the child may be struck by a person.  To be struck means to be hit.  Here's Merriam-Webster's definition:

"Struck: past and past participle of STRIKE."

"Strike: to aim and usually deliver a blow, stroke, or thrust (as with the hand, a weapon, or a tool) [and] to attempt to undermine or harm something as if by a blow."

To hit or harm via physical contact is considered battery in both criminal and tort law.  And, doing so is also defined in terms of child abuse in most, if not all states in the US.  Therefore, it is a serious concern that an expected risk that a child will receive blows or be hit by a person while in the program. 

HEAL has received reports that children have been intentionally drowned or made to feel as if being drowned and then revived as part of the "character building" at other, similarly marketed programs.  Open Sky should explicitly state under what circumstances they expect that beatings or drownings may occur.  It is a serious concern that Open Sky does not promise best practices or to use all necessary care and precautions in their program.  Such is not implied in the contract nor the assumption of risk.  The exact opposite is clearly stated, if not simply implied.  And, this is also a serious concern.

It is also a serious concern that the parents assume the risk of Open Sky using improper or malfunctioning equipment and gear.  It is Open Sky's responsibility to ensure that its equipment is up to standards and proper for the intended use.  This is a serious concern.

It is a serious concern that the program model entails inherent risks of death, serious injury, illness, and mental or emotional trauma.  If this is a "therapeutic" program as its advertising claims, then safeguards should be in place to protect participants from psychological harm/damage.  And, the fact that mental or emotional trauma is an inherent risk of the program suggests the program uses coercive thought reform and/or psychologically harmful method.  Many survivors of similar programs have reported suffering life-long night terrors, PTSD, Anxiety, and other debilitating effects as a result of having been exposed to and/or mistreated in a program similar to Open Sky.  This is a serious concern.

Again, Open Sky does not disclose all activities nor their methods to the parents prior to enrollment.  This is a serious concern as discussed above and no one should enroll their child in this program.

Open Sky accepts no responsibility even for intentional and/or negligent acts on the part of Open Sky staff and/or contractors that result in death, injury, and psychological harm.  This is a serious concern and provides no safeguard to protect families.  It is not a balanced/fair agreement and shows that it is unconscionable. 

The bottom line is that Open Sky will take your child, expose them to whatever harms they wish, and then return your child to you alive, dead, and/or severely mentally and/or physically harmed.  And, that is all they promise in their contracts.  For this, a parent pays a ridiculous sum and then is pressured to subject their child to further mistreatment in a long-term facility for which, Open Sky is likely compensated for the referral.  This is sickening and a good reason to avoid Open Sky.

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGE 12

"Open Sky Psychological Testing is provided by Dr. Carl Smoot, Ph.D. and associates at Psychological Solutions (www.psychologicalsolutions.info).  The fee for this service is $2,300."

"Parent/Guardian Consent to Administer Psychological Testing:"

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

Dr. Stanley Carl Smoot is a licensed psychologist in the State of Colorado (Source: https://www.doradls.state.co.us/alison.php).  Dr. Stanley Carl Smoot is a licensed psychologist in the State of Utah (Source: https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html).  (Open Sky did not provide Dr. Smoot's full name in its materials and our initial search for "Carl Smoot" returned no results in neither Utah nor Colorado.  Dr. Smoot contacted us with his full name and license information and we have confirmed that Dr. Stanley Carl Smoot is licensed in both states.)  Psychological Solutions operates at 7105 Highland Drive, Suite 304, in Salt Lake City, UT.  He co-owns this "practice" with Tracine Smoot.  Tracine Smoot is a licensed psychologist in the State of Utah and was originally licensed in Utah in 2003.  (Source: https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html)  Tracine and Carl earned their degrees at the University of Utah.  Kevin Fenstermacher of Psychological Solutions is a licensed psychologist in Utah.  Rebecca Herreman of Psychological Solutions is not a licensed psychologist in Utah.  Herreman is a licensed psychologist in Oregon.  Ted Barratt is a licensed psychologist in Utah.  And, he earned his degree from Alliant International University in Fresno, CA.    Stephanie Tonin is a licensed psychologist in Utah and earned her degree at the University of Utah.  Joshua Cluff earned his PhD at John F Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, CA and is a licensed psychologist in Utah.  Robin Weiner is a licensed psychologist in Utah and earned her degree at the University of Utah.  Kathryn Kasenchak is not a licensed psychologist in Utah.  Louise Kindell is not a licensed psychologist in Utah.  Kasenchak and Kindell are both licensed psychologists in CA.  Jennifer A Wisdom has an expired license as a Certified Public Accountant, but, Wisdom is not licensed as a psychologist in Utah.  (Jennifer Wisdom Pelt is a licensed psychologist in New York only.)  There are too many Karen Campbell's licensed in various fields to determine of the one working at Psychological Solutions is licensed.  Laura Lyn Brockbank is a licensed psychologist in Utah.  John Richard Hinman (Jack) is a licensed psychologist in Utah and earned his degree at Forest Institute in Missouri.  Suzanne Plowman is a licensed psychologist who earned her degree at Brigham Young University in 2008.  Pamela McCollam is a licensed psychologist in Utah and also earned her degree at Brigham Young University.  (Source: https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html)

It is a serious concern that families may be paying for unlicensed/unqualified psychological evaluations.  In addition, the specialty of Psychological Solutions and their collective histories suggests it is really a referral service masquerading as a mental health services provider.  This is a serious concern.  Parents should ask whether Open Sky receives a percentage of the $2,300 for each referral to Psychological Solutions.  Dr. Smoot told HEAL that Psychological Solutions never refers to nor recommends residential treatment or wilderness therapy to clients in an e-mail dated May 3rd, 2012.

If Open Sky operates and is headquartered in Colorado, why do they seek services from the middle of Utah?  This is an additional concern as it suggests transportation of children far beyond the Colorado/Utah border as is described in Open Sky's materials.  Why are Colorado providers not consulted or utilized for evaluations?

Overall, HEAL would recommend against subjecting a child to Open Sky or any evaluations Open Sky recommends.

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGES 13-14

"Student Name"

"Social Security #"

"DOB"

"Please include educational consultant, home therapist(s), psychologist, addictions counselors, other involved family members:"

"This authorization for use or disclosure of medical information is being requested to comply with the terms of the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act of 1981, Civil Code Sections 56 et seq.  The purpose of this release is to allow the Open Sky treatment team to communicate with the above named professionals regarding your child's care."

"I authorize the above named professionals to release and receive information concerning the above named participant to and from Open Sky Wilderness Therapy ("Open Sky")."

"I further authorize the release of this information to be received vial E-mail, Internet technology, voice mail or US mail.  While every effort will be made for confidentiality, Open Sky accepts no responsibility for the mis-transmission that could result or information becoming available to someone other than the intended receiver."

"I understand that my confidential records are protected under the federal confidentiality regulations and cannot be disclosed without my written consent unless otherwise provided for in the regulations."

"I, _______________________, authorize Open Sky Wilderness Therapy to share and/or receive confidential medical information with those providing treatment for: ________________________(name of student)."

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

It is not unreasonable and very expected that Open Sky would need the name of the child to be enrolled.  However, it is not reasonable nor expected that Open Sky, nor any unlicensed mental health, nor any unaccredited educational program would require his date of birth and social security number.  With your child's name, date of birth, and social security number, an unscrupulous individual or business could misuse the information in a number of ways.  This is a serious concern and especially so since Open Sky is not bound by confidentiality since it is not licensed and permitting Open Sky staff (most of whom are unlicensed) access to this confidential information puts your child and family at unnecessary risk of harm and damage. 

Programs like Open Sky often provide "incentives" ("kickbacks") to referrers including mental health professionals, educational consultants, and school personnel.  Parents should ask whether or not Open Sky provides such "incentives" to those who refer to its program.  This raises serious legal and ethical concerns.

What is the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act of 1981, Civil Code Section 56 et seq?   It appears to be a California statute from initial research and, if so, it applies to employers/employees and the right of employers to receive confidential medical information.  This would appear to have little or nothing to do with and no application to the circumstances regarding a child's enrollment in Open Sky nor any other program.  (Source: http://www.aapsonline.org/judicial/exhl.doc)  Additional research results in references to California Civil Code only.  And, this does not appear to be a federal rule nor a rule applied under Colorado nor Utah State laws.  This is a serious concern as it implies respect towards a law under which the contract itself disclaims any authority.  The contract states explicitly that Colorado law is the only law that is recognized to apply to the contract in regards to State laws.  And, this again suggests dishonesty on the part of Open Sky.

Again, HEAL recommends parents do not enroll children in Open Sky.  But, if you are still considering Open Sky, you should know that disclosing or permitting the disclosure of protected health information to individuals and businesses not governed by HIPAA removes the protection of that information and it can be used however the receiving party deems fit and disclosed to further individuals without your knowledge or consent.  This places children and families in harm's way that would otherwise be under the false assumption that their information is protected under HIPAA once disclosed to individuals/entities not governed by HIPAA such a Open Sky.

Open Sky admittedly accepts no responsibility nor liability for confidential information be "mis-transmitted" to "unintended" third-party recipients.  This is a serious concern given the fact that Open Sky is under no obligation to protect the information as it is not governed by HIPAA.

 "The Privacy Rule, as well as all the Administrative Simplification rules, apply to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and to any health care provider who transmits health information in electronic form in connection with transactions for which the Secretary of HHS has adopted standards under HIPAA (the “covered entities”)."  (Source:  http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/summary/index.html)

Open Sky is not a licensed health care provider and therefore is not regulated by federal regulations protecting your privacy.  And, as Open Sky has stated your information "cannot be disclosed without my [your] written consent unless otherwise provided for in the regulations."  The regulations do not apply to non-health care providers as stated above and therefore Open Sky is outside the parameters of the protections and the regulations do not apply to them.  Again, this is the vegetarian meeting meat preparation requirements analogy.  If a vegetarian chef never prepares meat, but, claims to always meet meat preparation standards, the claim cannot be disproved as it is never at issue.  Similarly, if a program like Open Sky is not a health care provider, it can claim to be in compliance with HIPAA.  But, if federal regulations are never applied to Open Sky, which they are not, then the point is moot.  Open Sky is not held accountable for any failure to comply as their business is outside the targets of the regulations and they are not regulated by HHS nor required to comply with HIPAA being a non-health care provider.

HEAL heartily recommends you avoid doing business with Open Sky and that you do not share your private, protected health nor personally identifying (i.e. SSN) information with Open Sky.

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGE 15

"Power of Attorney"

"KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENT,  that I/we ___________________________________ (the parent(s)/legal guardian(s) and hereafter known as the "client"), do hereby certify to ACF Enterprises, which owns and operates the program known as Open Sky Wilderness Therapy, that I/we are the true and lawful attorney in-fact and legal custodian(s) for ____________________ (herein referred to as "Student"), and said Student is my/our ___________.  Pursuant to C.R.S. ss 15-14-105, we hereby execute this Power of Attorney for the purpose of providing educational, therapeutic and clinical services in connection with the Open Sky Wilderness Therapy (hereinafter known as "Open Sky")."

"Without limiting or qualifying the general Power of Attorney granted and delegated by Participant to Open Sky in the paragraph above, Participant specifically grants to Open Sky the following powers:"

"To provide or obtain all medical, dental, psychiatric treatment and hospital care, and to authorize a physician to perform any and all procedures that may appear to be medically necessary for the Student's well being;"

"To physically restrain the Student should he/she become a danger to him/herself, or to anyone else, as deemed necessary by Open Sky;"

"To allow the Student to participate in all activities that may risk physical injury or illness, as outlined in Open Sky's Enrollment Agreement and Program Description, and"

"To search the person and personal effects of the Student at any time as Open Sky, in its discretion, deems appropriate, and seize and confiscate any items deemed by Open Sky to be contraband or counterproductive to any successful completion of Open Sky's Program.  The search of the person of the Student may require him/her to remove all of his/her clothing and may include a "strip search" of all or any portions of his/her body, including cavities in which contraband could be hidden."

"To restrict the Student's access to telephone calls, visitors and delivered materials."

"To operate as an escort service in order to transport the Student to and from the State of Colorado to participate in the Open Sky Wilderness Therapy program."

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

ACF Enterprises is a licensed limited liability company only.

What is "C.R.S. ss 15-14-105"?  It is a power of attorney to allow another individual to make decisions for a minor or incapacitated person for a term not to exceed one year under Colorado law.  See: http://www.courts.state.co.us/Forms/PDF/jdf7501.pdf.  The issue here is that ACF Enterprises does not appear to be a known/licensed entity and transferring such power to an unlicensed and/or limited liability entity is ill-advised. 

In addition, it is a serious concern that the Power of Attorney requested/required by Open Sky is a general Power of Attorney as opposed to limited Power of Attorney.  A limited Power of Attorney is more appropriate and the standard in boarding school, residential treatment, and recreational services.  The Power of Attorney required by Open Sky over-reaches and inappropriately grants power without responsibility and liability attached.  This is a serious concern.

Parents should be consulted and pre-approve any non-emergency care and procedures.  It is a serious concern that the permission of the Power of Attorney form extends to any treatment or procedure subjectively judged necessary by those who stand to profit from such decisions. 

It is a serious concern that restraint is used when "deemed necessary" by Open Sky staff when the majority of the staff, especially the field guides, are not qualified nor licensed to provide such interventions.

It is a serious concern that all activities or a record of all previous excursions' activities is not provided to families so they can make an informed decision and provide informed consent to the activities that Open Sky represents as involving a risk of physical harm.  HEAL discussed our concerns regarding many of the program elements discussed in the review of the Assumption of Risk document (page 11 above).  Please see that discussion for more information.

It is a serious concern that this Power of Attorney appears to be a contract of conspiracy to violate the civil rights of a minor.  This is a serious concern.  Strip searches performed by other than law enforcement professionals with just cause for the search by schools and other services to minors have been deemed a violation of the minor's rights.  The Supreme Court has ruled that such searches are illegal.

In addition, depriving a child of communication with the outside world and censoring/monitoring their mail is also a civil rights violation.  This was decided in the case of Milonas and Rice, et al v. Provo Canyon School by the Federal Courts.  Any program that actively and openly admits to striking children and violating their civil rights should be avoided.  And, this certainly includes Open Sky Wilderness.

It is a serious concern that this program transports children across state lines given its propensity for violating the law and children's rights.  No parent should entrust their child to this program.

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGE 16

"Insured SS#"

"Insured Employer"

"For the purpose of paying all or part of monies owing to Open Sky Wilderness Therapy ("Open Sky") for services it has or will render to the above client, the undersigned hereby irrevocably assigns to Open Sky any benefit payments payable for the benefit of said client by the above insurance company or companies and all rights and interest in said policy but only to the extent necessary to pay Open Sky in full.  Undersigned hereby grants to Open Sky the right to bill the above insurance company at retail or at the contract rate."

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

HEAL seriously advises against sharing your social security number and employer information with Open Sky.  Open Sky is not a licensed mental health nor medical facility.  It is not an accredited educational program.  And, ACF Enterprises does not appear to be a legitimate enterprise in Colorado either.  So, it is very unwise to share your personally identifying information with such a business/entity. 

In addition, it is highly unlikely that Open Sky would qualify to receive insurance payments from most healthcare insurance providers given its lack of licensing in mental and physical health.  Such information only makes sense to share if Open Sky needs it to obtain legitimate mental health or emergency medical services.  But, Open Sky claims it is for payments to Open Sky.  And, this raises additional concerns.  Is there a history of "double-billing" at Open Sky?  This should be investigated.

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGE 18

"How will student be coming to Open Sky?"

"Family will bring/drive student to Open Sky"

"Student will be escorted to Open Sky by a transport company"

"Transport company (if applicable)"

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

HEAL recommends against enrolling any child in Open Sky. 

Regardless of a family's decision, the family should be honest with their child and be present at time of entry/enrollment.  Parent's should also be allowed to witness all of the intake procedures, including any "searches" conducted by staff.  And, any items found to be "contraband" should immediately be turned over to the family at time of intake to avoid any possible theft by staff of valuables.

Authorities around the country have repeatedly stated that the transport companies are engaging in kidnapping.  And, that they are prosecutable.  The reason these companies are not prosecuted is because children do not know that such actions are criminal.  Another reason these companies are not prosecuted is because children understand that to prosecute the companies they must also file charges against their parents for conspiracy to commit kidnapping and they do not wish to do that to their parents or fear repercussions.  Such does not stop the actions of these transport companies and the families from being illegal and prosecutable.  And, we hope someday someone will effectively prosecute the transport companies and/or the parents who engage in this illegal activity.  It is a serious concern that Open Sky encourages illegal and unconscionable actions and contracts. 

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGES 19-20

"You and your child are being asked to take part in a research study."

"Expires 2/23/2011"

"If you have any questions regarding NATSAP's study please contact the staff at UNH 603-862-2024"

"irb@hs.utah.edu"

"participant.advocate@hsc.utah.edu"

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

HEAL recommends you do not agree to participate in any research studies unless you will be given complete access to research data.  This access should include access to all uses, intents, purposes, studies, and results to which your information will be applied. 

NATSAP is a joke and not to be taken seriously by anyone.  Please see Congressional Hearings and/or their message to HEAL for more information.

According to the documents we have on file, the research study is now over.  Joanna Bettmann works for Open Sky Wilderness Therapy and formerly worked for Aspen Education Group programs.

We have e-mailed the University of Utah at the e-mail addresses listed above to confirm/verify whether or not they are currently involved in assisting Open Sky with any "outcome study".  We will post any information we obtain from our inquiries here as soon as they become available.

We have received replies from the Institutional Review Board and Participant Advocate at the University of Utah.  The representative of the Institutional Review Board states: "I can say I don’t have any Agreement with any of these Institutions."  By "these Institutions" the University of Utah, Institutional Review Board was referring to NATSAP and Open Sky Wilderness Therapy.

The representative of the Participant Advocate's office states: "A[s] far as other studies with NATSAP or Open Sky Wilderness Therapy may best be answered by the IRB as I am not sure of any."  It appears that Open Sky may be doing an independent evaluation/study that they are filing with the University of Utah and that the University of Utah is in no way involved in these studies.  This is something that should be made clear by Open Sky in their materials so that families do not fall under the impression that the University of Utah is working in collaboration with Open Sky or providing any oversight to the program or its study.

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGE 22 and 25

"The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) was developed in the 1950's to ensure protection and services to children who are placed across state lines primarily for foster care or adoption.  The Compact is a uniform law that has been enacted by all fifty states.  The intent of the law is to protect children from the possibility of being abandoned or placed out of state with no support or funding in place."

"These forms notify the states of Utah and Colorado that your child is coming into their state as a temporary resident and in turn, notifies your home state that your child will be temporarily residing in Utah and Colorado."

"Type of Care Requested:  Residential Treatment Center"

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

HEAL does not believe that Open Sky Wilderness Therapy qualifies as a Residential Treatment Center according to laws defining "Residential Treatment Center".  Here is how the law defines "Residential Treatment Center" in relation to Interstate Compact Placement Request forms:

"Residential Treatment Center: a group care facility which provides a specific treatment program outside the realm of a medical hospital, psychiatric hospital or institution for the mentally retarded or mentally ill; e.g., a residential program for the treatment of alcohol/drug abuse. The receiving state is not obligated to supervise this type of placement made by the sending state." (Taken from ocfs.state.ny.us on September 20th, 2010)

So, based on the above, this contradicts the statements made by Open Sky Wilderness that Colorado and/or Utah will supervise and agrees to provide such supervision by receiving/recording the ICPC form.  This is a blatantly false statement as Utah and Colorado have made no such agreement and/or no such agreement could reasonably be implied given that the above statement that "The receiving state is not obligated to supervise this type of placement" openly contradicts the statement made by Open Sky that the receiving states (Colorado/Utah) are agreeing to provide "protection and services."  Misleading statements, deception, and more await those looking to do business with Open Sky Wilderness Therapy.

MINOR ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, PAGE 28

"Open Sky will provide all of the gear, clothing and equipment that your child will need throughout the program.  This includes all seasonal items, underwear and personal hygiene items."

"The following are the ONLY items that your son or daughter needs to bring:"

"Clothes to travel in"

"Prescription eyeglasses (no contact lenses, please)"

"A two month supply of current prescription medication, as listed in the medical report"

"Camera--disposable only (optional, but highly recommended)"

"Purchased equipment and supplies (that are the property of your child):"

"When you attend the graduation, please bring a large luggage bag to take these items home."

"Rental equipment and supplies (that will stay at Open Sky):"

"Backpack"

"Parka"

"New England Overshoes "NEO's""

"Sleeping pad"

"Poncho"

"Tarp"

"Hygiene supplies (personal and group supplies): toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, bug spray, sun screen, sanitation supplies, etc."

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

It is unclear why children can't bring their own underwear.  It seems like a way to create discomfort and/or humiliate the children.  This is a concern.

How much do the backpacks weigh and how much additional weight are children required to carry?  This is a serious concern and forcing children to carry weight beyond their healthy capacity is detrimental and can cause permanent back, posture, and knee problems.

Does Open Sky re-use toothbrushes?  If so, that is disgusting and very un-hygienic.  It does not seem appropriate that they rent "toothbrushes" and seems counter to providing a healthy or reasonable environment and program.

ADULT ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, page 2 [The introduction letter is page 1 in the .pdf representation of pages.  However, the numbered page, as numbered by Open Sky, is "1".  So, please note that we are going by the .pdf representation of pages and if you open the .pdf (linked at beginning of this review--scroll up) you will see that the pages as we are representing them is the same as the page you would need to go to in the .pdf document.]

"Enrollment Agreement -- Financial Sponsor(s) of Adult Student"

"This Enrollment Agreement is made effective as of this _____ day of _______________, 20___, by and between ACF Enterprises, LLC, a Colorado Limited Liability Company (doing business as Open Sky Wilderness Therapy ("Open Sky") and the Client (collectively, the "Parties").  Open Sky is the party providing services, and the Client is the party responsible for satisfying the financial obligations of the participant in the Open Sky program, _________________ (the "Student"), as detailed herein."

"I/we understand that said Student must meet Open Sky's eligibility requirement for acceptance into the program, and that misrepresentation of the Student for this potentially places the Student at great risk and may result in discharge from Open Sky.  I/we further understand that part of the screening process is completed in the first week of the program and agree that Open Sky may determine at this time that said Student is clinically or medically inappropriate for placement.  If Student is discharged at this time I/we agree to pay for the return trip home or for travel expenses to another placement.  I/we understand that we will be charged only for the days (any day spent at Open Sky is counted as a full day) that the Student is enrolled."

"Assuming the Student is accepted into the program, the term of this Agreement shall be a minimum of thirty-five days, beginning with the Student's arrival date."

"I/we understand that the cost of the Open Sky Wilderness Therapy program is $485/day plus an enrollment fee of $2,000.  Payments may be made by check, certified check, wire transmission, or credit card (MasterCard, Visa or American Express).  Full payment of $18,975 for the first 35 days and the enrollment fee must be paid in full on or before the Student's arrival date.  The enrollment fee is non-refundable and ensures that a space is held for the Student.  I/we further understand that should the decision be made to extend the length of stay for the Student beyond the initial 35 days, tuition will be billable in advance, in 7-day increments, and payment is due within 10 business days of billing.  Failure to pay may result in the Student being sent home immediately at my/our expense."

"I/we understand that if enrollment is cancelled by the Client(s) less than 5 days prior to the arrival date Open Sky will retain the enrollment fee.  All notices of cancellation must be in writing."

"If the Student is discharged prematurely for medical or clinical reasons, which Open Sky retains the right to do, full refund of monies on a per day rate will be given after deduction of cost for received services.  I/we will not hold Open Sky responsible for any consequences that result from the student's premature discharge."

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

We have included the minimum stay in order to assist with calculating the minimum cost which will be discussed below.  HEAL has received reports from parents that Open Sky Wilderness Therapy attempts to strong-arm/coerce parents into sending adult children who have completed Open Sky to long-term residential programs.  This may include "transitional programs" aimed at adults 18-24 years old such as Four Circles Recovery.  Recently, a parent wrote to us stating, "Hi there my son is in a wilderness therapy program called Open Sky they are recommending aftercare at a few of the places mentioned on your warning list here. I am in a position of feeling extreme pressure to "get on board" with the decision to place him in aftercare and do not want to have my child placed in out of home aftercare."  It is our suspicion that Open Sky likely receives kickbacks for referrals to "aftercare" and/or long-term residential programs.  And, it is a serious concern that they attempt to manipulate parents into agreeing to such when it is not in the best interest of the participant/"Student" or the family.

Open Sky Wilderness Therapy is not licensed as a behavioral health, mental health, nor medical services provider.  Open Sky Wilderness is not licensed, and arguably not qualified, to determine whether or not a child or adult client is mentally and/or physically capable of handling the rigors of the program.  This is a serious concern as the name of the program implies it is a licensed therapeutic program, when it is not licensed as a mental nor physical therapy provider.

The $18,975 includes the non-refundable enrollment fee and covers the "minimum stay" required by Open Sky.  The minimum stay is 35 days.  If you were to calculate the minimum cost of Open Sky Wilderness Therapy for one year (365 days) of service, the total would be $179,025 (including the non-refundable enrollment fee).  To put this is comparative terms, it costs 3.5 times or approximately 350% more than one year at Harvard University (including counseling, room, and board).  "Harvard University will increase tuition next school year by 3.8 percent, the school announced yesterday, bringing the annual cost of a Harvard education, including room and board, to $50,724." (Source: boston.com, March 19th, 2010)   Keep in mind, Harvard provides licensed counselors and world-class educational services.  And, Open Sky Wilderness is not accredited as a school nor licensed as a therapeutic services provider.  So, it raises serious concerns.  Open Sky also does not accept any responsibility or liability in the event of serious injury or death of someone enrolled.  And, the extraordinary fees are not to cover the risks incurred by subjecting children to their methods.  It is all about profit.  The cost of the program, when considered with the lack of accountability of the program, more than suggests an unconscionable contract.  This is a serious concern.

The enrollment fee itself is excessive given the lack of licensing and lack of legitimacy of services "offered" by this program.  HEAL would advise against throwing money away by enrolling a loved one in this program.

There appears to be a discrepancy in the total amount to be charged in the event Open Sky chooses to discharge (a medical term, typically) a "Student" from the program.  Mind you, a "Student" may be expelled from a school.  And, Open Sky is not a school.  And, a patient may be discharged from a hospital, mental health, or medical services provider.  However, Open Sky is not a licensed mental health nor medical services provider.  So, the word discharge implies a qualification that Open Sky does not meet and suggests deceptive practices on the part of Open Sky.  Regardless, in the first paragraph of page 3 quoted above, Open Sky claims families will only be charged per day in the event a "Student" is dismissed from the program prematurely.  This is contradicted in the event a "Student" is removed by parents (to be discussed below) and in the first paragraph of page 3 quoted below.  The last paragraph quoted from page 2 above claims a per diem charge to be assessed in addition to supposed charges for "services received".  This appears to be a contradictory term and raises additional concerns.

ADULT ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, page 3

"If Student withdraws before expiration of the minimum period of enrollment without the recommendations of the Clinical Directory, Client forfeits fifty percent (50%) of the remaining balance of the minimum stay."

"If Student attempts to run away, Open Sky will make every reasonable effort to find the Student as quickly as possible.  I/we hereby release, hold harmless, and indemnify Open Sky from any and all liability arising out of or resulting from the Student running away while enrolled at Open Sky.  Any costs incurred by the Student if he/she runs away from Open Sky and expenditures made by Open Sky in the pursuit of the student will be paid by the Client(s)."

"All personal gear issued to the Student remains the property of the Student, who must assume full responsibility for care, upkeep and replacement cost if the gear is lost or destroyed by the Student.  Client agrees to accept full responsibility for: (1) the repair or replacement of any property damaged, defaced or destroyed by the Student, whether owned, leased or controlled by Open Sky or any third party; (2) personal injury to any Open Sky personnel, other student or third party caused, in whole or in part, by the Student; and (3) to promptly reimburse Open Sky for any costs and expenses, including legal and/or medical fees, it may incur in connection therewith.  I understand that Open Sky uses Positive Control Systems Non Violent Crisis Intervention Programs.  Physical restraint of students is used only after verbal de-escalation has been exhausted and/or proved ineffective and is used only in the following scenarios: 1) imminent harm to self; 2) imminent harm to others."

"I/we agree to pay in full and make arrangements for the Student to travel to and from Open Sky.  I/we agree that any such arrangements will be made with professional transport agencies and that Open Sky has no responsibility or culpability for any events which occur during the escort process."

"I/we understand that the Open Sky treatment team may recommend psychiatric services with a MD-level psychiatrist."

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

It is a serious concern and an apparent unconscionable term to keep the 50% of the amount paid if a family wises up and removes their loved one from this program.  If Open Sky can choose to dismiss a "student" at will from the program, parents should retain the right to remove their loved one at will from the program with the same terms applied.  It may also interest parents of minor children that the program refunds 50% for adult clients and no monies for minor clients under the same circumstances.

It is a serious concern that Open Sky demands to be indemnified in the event of the disappearance of a participant from the program that they can excuse as a "runaway".  Open Sky charges a grotesquely high fee that should cover any costs associated with an expected risk such as a participant running away from what is likely an unprofessional and dangerous environment.

Positive Control Systems is also the system used by WWASPS (www.heal-online.org/turley.pdf, www.heal-online.org/crosscreek.htm), Aspen Education Group  (www.heal-online.org/aspenache.htm, www.heal-online.org/ale.htm, etc.) and many other notoriously fraudulent and abusive programs.  This raises serious concerns regarding Open Sky's policies and procedures.  Please see www.heal-online.org/utah.htm for more information on the issues with Positive Control Systems.  Positive Control Systems is not even licensed.

It is a serious concern that Open Sky recommends the use of hired kidnappers to transport adults to the program.  Many survivors of wilderness and residential programs have stated that the experience of being abducted from their home, school, or off the street by strangers and then transported to an undisclosed location without their knowledge or consent causes severe post traumatic stress.  Any program that advises or supports the use of such a service is not acting in the best interest of the "Student" or the family.  This is a serious concern.

Legitimate mental health services from qualified psychologists and psychiatrists are contracted out to third-parties for which there are additional charges.  This, along with the fact that Open Sky is not licensed as a behavioral health, mental health, nor medical facility, raises serious concerns regarding the cost of the program weighed against the services provided.  The use of language such as "treatment team" and "treatment plan" also imply that Open Sky Wilderness is a mental health services provider.  However, it is not so licensed and this further suggests deceptive practices at Open Sky.

ADULT ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, page 4

"In certain situations, it is deemed therapeutically appropriate to use an intervention to help foster, further or "jump start" progress for a student.  This intervention is called a "Quest" and involves the student leaving the peer group team and working one-on-one with two specified field guides.  Due to the intensive nature of this intervention there is an additional $250/day fee.  Should the Open Sky treatment team find it necessary for my child to participate in a Quest, I/we agree to pay for the additional charge."

"In certain situations, the Open Sky treatment team may recommend a "Family Quest" for the student and some combination of family members.  Family Quests are 3 days and 2 nights in length and are facilitated by Open Sky staff.  Due to the intensive nature of this intervention there is an additional fee of $4,200 for the Family Quest, which covers staffing, food, gear, and logistical support.  Should I/we choose to participate in Family Quest with my/our Student; I/we agree to pay for the additional charge."

"I/we further agree to defend and indemnify Open Sky (to pay or reimburse Open Sky for money it is required to pay, including attorney's fees and costs) with respect to any and all claims brought by or on behalf of a family member, a co-participant, or any other person for any claims related to Student's participation in the program."

"I/we agree to release, hold harmless and indemnify Open Sky from any and all liability arising out of or resulting from any injury or illness which occurs while the Student is enrolled.  I/we agree to release, hold harmless, and indemnify Open Sky from any and all liability arising out of or resulting from any medical condition which is self-inflicted by the Student while enrolled, including without limitation any self-inflicted injury or illness."

"I/we acknowledge and understand that photographs taken for the purpose of illustrating Open Sky's programs and services may include photographs of student and family members.  I/we hereby agree that Open Sky may namelessly display these photographs on the Open Sky website, print materials, or any publication authorized by Open Sky."

"I/we authorize Open Sky to transmit personal communications from the Student via a secure, password protected webpage.  I/we understand that errors may occur and I/we release Open Sky from any and all liability for errors in the transmission of personal communications between my Student and myself/ourselves."

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

Most, if not all, of the field guides employed by Open Sky are not licensed mental health professionals.  This is a serious concern given that they are charged with implementing "intensive interventions" at an additional cost.  If Open Sky were to determine that psychiatric contracting, psychological contracting, and such an intervention were necessary, it would cost at minimum an additional $3200 on top of the extraordinary charges in the form of "tuition" costs.  It is also inappropriate for Open Sky to use the word "tuition" to describe its fees as it is not a properly accredited educational program.

If all of the above and a "Family Quest" are deemed recommended/necessary, the total additional fees would be $7400 at a minimum.  These fees are extraordinary given the lack of qualifications of the field guides.  (See staff information above for more details.)

Open Sky is in charge of choosing the location and activities.  Open Sky charges an extraordinary amount and accepts no responsibility that may result from its own choices in regards to program location, activities, and operation.  This is unreasonable and goes against public policy and laws related to the responsibility of those entrusted with a child's care.  This is a serious concern.

It is a violation of the student's privacy rights to allow his/her photograph to be used publicly for promotion/marketing of the program.  Parents have the right to waive their own rights, but, not the rights of their children.  See www.heal-online.org/legalarguments.htm for more information.  It is a serious concern that Open Sky seeks to conspire with parents to violate the rights of another family member.  And, this further gives basis for not trusting Open Sky with loved ones.

Open Sky accepts no responsibility for the disclosure of personal information if it can be excused as "error".  This is a concern and will be addressed further in regards to Open Sky's claims regarding HIPAA compliance below.

ADULT ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, page 5

"I/we acknowledge and understand that participation in the Open Sky program will put me/us in contact with other Open Sky families in the way of weekly all-family teleconference calls, wellness weekend and the like.  For this reason, I/we hereby agree to confidentiality in reference to other Open Sky families, their names, stories or other information I/we might become privy to before, during or after participation at Open Sky, unless it involves a case of suspected child abuse or neglect."

"I/we acknowledge that Open Sky complies with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1999.  To review our detailed HIPAA policy, pleased contact the Open Sky office."

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

Open Sky, like many fraudulent and/or abusive programs, does not want families and individuals who have been exposed to Open Sky communicating with each other directly.  This is to avoid a possible class action and to claim that it is out of concern that such interaction is prohibited by the contract.  This is a serious concern as it places the interests of Open Sky above the interests of the individuals and families (clients/participants) exposed to Open Sky.

Open Sky is not a licensed medical, mental health, nor behavioral health services provider and therefore is not subject to HIPAA regulations.  Open Sky claiming to be HIPAA compliant is the equivalent of a vegetarian claiming to always use safe meat preparation standards.  Vegetarians don't use meat and therefore any claim of using safe meat preparation standards is irrelevant.  And, Open Sky, being unregulated by HIPAA since it is not licensed as a mental health nor medical services provider, claiming to be HIPAA compliant, is equally irrelevant. 

ADULT ENROLLMENT AGREEMENT QUOTES, page 7

"Note that the average length of stay for students at Open Sky is 63 days."

HEAL'S QUESTIONS/CONCERNS

The above would mean the average cost of the program (without any added expenses such as legitimate therapy and/or medical care) is $32,555.  That's $32,555 for 63 days of very questionable "services".  That would make 4 months at Open Sky more costly than a year of tuition at Harvard University with room, board, and books.  That's ridiculous.

The rest of the paperwork and the above does not vary in great detail from the enrollment agreement and forms for minors.  Please see the complete review of the Minor Enrollment Agreement for more information.

Based on our own evaluation, we highly suggest you avoid enrolling any child or adult in Open Sky and that you remove/retrieve any loved one currently enrolled in this program.

Open Sky chief says agency ‘deeply concerned’ about frostbite cases December incident could affect program’s licensing, accreditation By Jonathan Romeo Herald staff writer Article Last Updated: Wednesday, January 20, 2016 8:20pm Keywords: Health, Therapy, Juvenile delinquency, Newsletter, Print   Make text smaller Make text larger Share Enlarge photo Shaun Stanley/Durango Herald A sign directs visitors toward the offices of Open Sky Wilderness Therapy on East Third Avenue in Durango. Six students involved in an outdoor event were sent to a hospital for frostbite in late December. Shaun Stanley/Durango Herald A sign directs visitors toward the offices of Open Sky Wilderness Therapy on East Third Avenue in Durango. Six students involved in an outdoor event were sent to a hospital for frostbite in late December. The Durango-based Open Sky Wilderness Therapy program could face licensing and accreditation repercussions following a December incident in which six students were sent to a hospital for frostbite and two of them required an emergency flight to Denver for further care. According to Open Sky’s CEO and founder Aaron Fernandes, the students were treated for frostbite on Dec. 28 and Dec. 29 at Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez after being out in nearly zero-degree temperatures in the Utah backcountry. Four students were evaluated and released. However, two students were flown to Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver, where they were treated and subsequently released, Fernandes said. “We don’t have the final answer yet, but at the moment it appears that the students were not wearing suitable footwear for the cold weather conditions,” Fernandes said. “We are still investigating if there were errors in the decision-making by our staff regarding footwear or any other deviations from our safety guidelines.” Fernandes said responders moved as quickly as possible, but he was “troubled that it took the time it did to get the students from the backcountry to the hospital.” “Obviously, I am deeply concerned and alarmed about these events. We are doing everything we can to prevent something like this from ever happening again.” Fernandes said he couldn’t comment further on the nature or seriousness of the injuries, citing student privacy. But he did say “all six students are either currently enrolled in or have recently graduated from the Open Sky program.” Open Sky, founded in 2006, takes troubled teens and young adults into the backcountry for therapeutic treatment. Courses can last up to 10 weeks, based on the needs of the student. The program has a summer location in the forests of the San Juan Mountains near Dolores, at an elevation of 7,700 feet. Its winter site, where the incident occurred, is about an hour and forty-five minutes from Durango in the high desert of southeastern Utah, near the city of Blanding. The base camp elevation is 6,300 feet. The National Weather Service reported that on Dec. 28 at the Blanding Municipal Airport the high was 26 degrees and the low was 4 degrees. The next day, highs hovered around 28 degrees with lows near 17 degrees. Paul Gibson, clinical director of the emergency department at Mercy Regional Medical Center, said “it’s got to be pretty freezing out there” for frostbite to occur. Gibson was unfamiliar with the Open Sky incident, but said “the exposure was probably tremendous” to require a transport to Denver. “They probably exhibited later signs of frostbite,” Gibson said. “That’s when the skin starts to die and fall off. Generally, they’ll send them to the burn center in Denver, because the treatment is pretty similar.” Open Sky is accredited by the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council and the Association for Experiential Education. Mike Gass, a director at Outdoor Behavioral research center, said internal and external reviews are conducted of field incidents, which could affect an organization’s accreditation status. “If a program did something inappropriate, they could be put on probation or, if it’s serious enough, have accreditation revoked,” Gass said. “My understanding is this was a cold snap that came in and affected the program. It’s a rare occurrence, but there are some things in nature you just can’t predict.” Dan Miller, a standards director for the Association of Experiential Education, wrote in an email that the organization is “aware of this incident, and it maintains regular communication with all of our accredited programs to ensure that they remain in compliance with our standards.” The Human Services departments of both Colorado and Utah, which Open Sky is licensed under, did not respond to inquiries about the specific incident. Pamela Neu, with Colorado’s DHS, said if an incident reaches a critical level, investigations could be launched under the state’s Child Welfare program. Fernandes said Open Sky is in compliance with the reporting requirements of both states. Wilderness therapy came under intense scrutiny in the mid-1990s following the death of a 16-year old boy in Utah involved in a different program. That caused criticism that outdoor programs were more of an abusive boot camp than a holistic healing experience. Danny Frazer, a co-founder of Open Sky, told High County News at that time it was a “kick in the butt” to the industry, which led many wilderness programs to seek state licensing and accreditation. “There’s been a major transformation since the mid-1990s when there was a number of accidents and incidents that were inappropriate,” Gass said. “The field has really matured since, in the last 10 to 15 years.” Robin Reber, an admissions director for Star Guides Wilderness in Grand Junction, said it’s industry practice to use state-of-the-art winter gear when bringing students out into the backcountry in cold temperatures. “I don’t know of any wilderness program that doesn’t operate year-round,” Reber said. “We’re very careful with the young people we have, and we don’t like being cold either. You have to be really conscious of the temperature.” jromeo@durangoherald.com  Source: http://www.durangoherald.com/article/20160120/NEWS01/160129983
 

 

 Last Updated: May 18th, 2016

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