B E H A V I O R A L  H E A L T H  N E W S 


Unparalleled Standards of Care at White River Academy
A Message from Justin Nielson, 
Program Director

Just in time for the holidays, White River Academy has a great deal to be thankful for and celebrate!

Throughout 2016, White River staff steamrolled our wish list of program tweaks and additions. In 2017, we look forward to fine-tuning this past year's initiatives.

Ensuring our high standard of care

This year, White River enfolded our emotional outcome tools assessment into patient aftercare. Students are given the survey 30 days after transition out from White River, monthly thereafter for six months, biannually for two years after they graduate and once every other year thereafter. We ask if they continue 12-step meetings, if they are enrolled in a school, post-educational vocation or career, what activities they engage in with friends, and how they responded if they relapsed.

We wanted to track down alumni and parents from the last 14 years and have made contact with nearly a dozen families from up to two years ago. So far, the feedback is good. Interestingly, most have started their own businesses or made a name for themselves in the military. A few had singular relapses, but we're pleased to hear they each have used the coping tools learned at White River to keep up progress despite the setback.

White River Academy consistently receives feedback from parents that our standard of care is unparalleled in the lineup of residential boarding schools. We are a fusion of psychological therapies, individualized treatment for behavioral health issues and an organic culture that echoes traditional values. We hope to receive Joint Commission accreditation in 2017.

Taking treatment to the next level

White River is most known for our embodiment of Positive Peer Culture, a group culture that is more a way of life than a modality. Since our inception, the student's themselves problem-solve issues that arise and use a single-organism method to self-regulate and modulate behavior.

In 2016 we've found ourselves having to adapt to the times and spearhead a process group to translate the basic tenets of a positive culture. Many kids don't understand what it means to be truly honest: "a stand-up guy."

In an age of "affluenza," reality TV shows where people manipulate and undercut each other, and a generation that prefers to text each other even when they're in the same room, we're finding we need to teach the boys basic communication and listening skills and how white lies and omissions are still manipulative strategies that hold the group back from progress.

Administrative initiatives

In maintaining best practices, White River has decided to boost our security measures in 2017 despite having no issues thus far. We are proactively assessing safety protocol and fortifying ourselves. Our 2017 goal is to enhance suicide prevention, regroup students according to age, reposition swing shift staff placement and establish new randomized nighttime checks. In 2016, we added close to 20 security cameras; in 2017 we're hoping to install two dozen more, which gives staff specifics on students' day-to-day interpersonal dynamics.

This past year, we worked more directly with insurance companies on providing inpatient and outpatient care. In 2017, we'd like to offer financing options through a lender program.

We were able to increase staff pay over the last decade and, as such, pull in some of the best, most work/life-balanced staff in the industry. White River has pushed for our people to be able to afford life. We have family-oriented people who model what they teach.

This coming 2017 will be a year of enhancement and toning; in 2016 we flexed a lot of muscle to get program features off the ground. In the new year, White River staff will continue to build and keep the repetition up on what's working well with regard to treatment, best practices within the facility and insurance provisions.

Student Service Projects From 2016WRA_Newsletter_2016-Service-projects_A.jpg

As discussed in a previous newsletter article on White River Academy’s servant leadership operation, the array of service types availed beyond standard juvenile community service penance or credit-rewarded high school volunteerism to “inevitably pull each out of their self-centered shell. READ MORE

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• F E A T U R E  N E W S •

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Volunteering is about giving your time and energy free of charge to accomplish a task that truly benefits others. It’s the time of year when most volunteering around the country and around the world is seen the most. READ MORE

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• F R O M  T H E  A R C H I V E S •

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• P A R E N T  T E S T I M O N I A L S •

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Anne R. is driving alone on a long back road in Utah, away from White River Academy. She insists that it’s the perfect time to talk about her son Sam, his recovery road and how WRA positively changed his path. READ MORE

• F E A T U R E D  E M P L O Y E E •

Kristin_WRA_newsletter_Featured employee_Loren Pence_20161115_WS.jpg

Featuring: Loren Pence
Location: White River Academy, Delta, Utah
Department: Support Staff
Position: Activities Director

Mr. Loren's commitment to the young men of White River Academy is approaching 10 years. He's worn many hats with the school, but this current one seems to be the perfect fit.

He's an outdoor enthusiast with a penchant for ice fishing – and the sport seems to be illustratively analogous to Mr. Loren's experience with White River students. After all, it's an open-air sport where you can catch bigger fish if you're willing to venture out beyond your comfort zone, and you get a front seat to the season's rewardingly crystal-clear waters if you're patient and observant.

Mr. Loren then and now

Mr. Loren has been swing shift supervising staff, shift manager, physical education supervisor, transport chauffeur and done White River vehicle maintenance during his tenure. He was referred to White River quite unceremoniously, but his career has taken an exemplary turn with the Academy.

"I really fell into WRA and fell in love with my role. For a time previously, I worked as a life coach to people with disabilities and volunteered to coach Special Olympics athletes," he says and adds, "I learned patience: both within myself and communicating how to use patience to see the bigger picture. I use that at WRA with myself and the students."

White River at home

For professionals at White River who are also parents, it's often the case one brings work home, the best of work that is. That's true for Mr. Loren as well. His wife – who's his high school sweetheart – has helped him on occasion with White River tasks and has even worked as a White River office assistant in the past. Mr. Loren has a young daughter who he says the Positive Peer Culture modality helps to rear.

"The toughest challenge is not stepping in and handling whatever her 'problem' is, but letting her figure out a solution, it's hard but it works and I definitely got that from [Positive Peer Culture]. Having her taking personal responsibility on chores, even at a young age, is very much because of the success I've seen with compliance and other aspects of White River culture."

White River activities: hook, line and sinker for life lessons

Mr. Loren says he thoroughly enjoys being activities director for the opportunity to get out in nature and see life through the outings with the White River students.

"We have a small committee where we have discussions on potential activities. There is quite a bit of input, and we'll try and involve some support staff in it too.

"My favorite activity of 2016 was the Lagoon amusement park's Frightmare outing. … Activities can have different purposes: the Lagoon trip reinforced proper conduct within a community setting. In 2015, the Zion national park featured a completely immersed water hike down alongside Utah's red cliffs.  The boys loved it, they were worn out and a couple didn't make it all the way to the steepest chasm, but that trip was about learning to overcome fears and obstacles. Just going through it was a success."

He adds the students themselves inspire him. "Each one of these guys I get impressed with, when they come up against a challenging situation and they manage to pull themselves together at least enough to make it through that situation and move on to the next piece of their day.

"Whether it be a huge mental breakdown over a loss in the family … it's easy to revert back to where they were and handle it inappropriately – use anger or seek out drugs – but instead they choose to pull themselves together and deal with it. They look at the picture and understand it and if they don't understand it, they try to, rather than just fly off the handle."

Mr. Loren says with such a difficult and intense program it's also good to have activities that are away time, just to decompress. He says for that they do camping, bowling and other local diversions that are an earned reward for compliant behavior.

What inspires Mr. Loren to help others

Above all else, Mr. Loren says family is what keeps him invigorated and motivated to help others.

"Things I learned there, I can bring home. There's been plenty of advancement and opportunity. I work with great clients and I kind of fell in love with [helping these students] and I kind of stuck to it."

 F A C I L I T Y  U P D A T E S  &  S T U D E N T  A C T I V I T I E S 

⇒ A few days before Halloween, a group of the students went to Lagoon amusement park's "Frightmares." Every October Lagoon becomes a spooky, Halloween themed atmosphere where the park is decorated and employees dress up. Lagoon is also the home of one of North America's steepest roller coasters: the Cannibal. The students were thrilled to spend a day riding roller coasters and getting into the Halloween spirit.

⇒ On Halloween, a few White River students headed to the Millard County Care and Rehabilitation facility to assist staff and residents in their Haunted House. Every year, the facility is decorated for trick or treaters to get candy as well as engage in activities with the seniors and recovering residents.

⇒ In equine therapy early Fall, one student had been struggling for a month to get a pony named "Maybe" to cooperate. The equine therapist took note the student went out of his way to request to be paired with Maybe on a particular day and reportedly did very well and had a breakthrough with the animal. The young man completed his prep exercises and now is ready to ride a horse!

⇒ On Veterans Day, a group of students went up to Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah, to go through the Museum of Natural Curiosity's obstacle course.

 S T A F F  A D D I T I O N S 

⇒ White River would like to welcome Ms. Chantelle Edwards as a swing support staff.

⇒ White River also welcomes Ms. Amy Jo Gordon as our new assistant chef.

 A  N O T E  F R O M  T H E  M A N A G I N G  E D I T O R 

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Corporate Office:
White River Academy
275 West 100 South, Delta, Utah 84624