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With more communities turning to mandatory treatment as an alternative to juvenile jail time, the organization proposed to offer that alternative in Porter County comes with a history of lawsuits and abuse allegations. It also comes with praise from local families.

Pathway Family Center, poised to open a Valparaiso branch this year on a start-up stipend of $100,000, the fruit of five year's fundraising by the Community Action Drug Coalition, is considered by some to be the descendent of an organization called Straight.

The center, which charges up to $60,000 per year for its services, this fall appealed to Porter County to chip in for an additional $200,000 administrators say they need to open a local branch. Several local families credit Pathway with saving their teens' lives.

When the Times took a closer look at Pathway Family Treatment Center, billed this fall as a panacea to Porter's County's heroin problem, it found a record of problems at Pathway and its predecessor -- Straight. An 1980s-era program spun from the original tough-love Synanon model, Straight comes with a legacy of lawsuits and court testimony blaming it for profound psychological abuses.

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