Coalition committed to Pathway

Coalition committed to Pathway

PORTER COUNTY: Group says organization opposing programs is 'misguided'


VALPARAISO | The Community Action Drug Coalition remains "100 percent committed" to its push to bring a Pathway Family Center teen drug program to Valparaiso.

County officials, however, may be getting cold feet.

"Apparently, there are some real serious issues with this program, and we're checking it out," said Bob Harper, County Commission president. "At this time, I would say no further action will be taken by the county."

Dr. Mann Spitler, the acting Community Action Drug Coalition leader whose 20-year-old daughter died of a heroin overdose several years ago, spoke at the Pathway Family Center in Indianapolis three times, starting in 2004, he said. The movement to bring Pathway to Porter County launched quickly last July, when a local couple with children who had graduated the program made the suggestion to the coalition, said Karen Conover, a past CADC president.

The CADC in August pledged the $100,000 it has raised during the past five years to fund start-up costs for the adolescent drug treatment program. Pathway Family Center administrators, aiming to open a Porter County facility next summer, brought their case to the county this fall. Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper, who oversees the juvenile court system, and Bob Taylor, who heads the county's drug task force, introduced the Pathway cause, and Harper brought the concept to a commissioners meeting in September.

Pathway Chief Executive Officer Terri Nissley, who heads Pathway's treatment center in Indianapolis, appeared before the County Council in late September, asking for another $200,000 from county coffers to come up with the $300,000 she said the agency needs to get up and running in Valparaiso. Council members expressed an inclination toward contributing county funds for the initiative, and supporting the Pathway Family Center evolved into a campaign issue in this fall's county elections. But the subject has not been raised in meetings since Nissley addressed the council.

"I don't think it will be pursued further," Harper said.

Early in October, the International Survivors Action Committee, a group that exposes treatment abuse, sent letters opposing the Pathway program to local officials and newspapers. That sparked a Times investigation that revealed links to a previous organization called Straight, which closed amid dozens of child abuse lawsuits.

"The CADC would never put its reputation at stake if there was the slightest inkling of impropriety," Spitler said. He characterizes ISAC as a "radical group that is at best misguided and at worst is conducting some kind of campaign against Pathway."

"I hope this won't deter any families from consulting with Pathway or dissuade the public from donating money that can save kids' lives," he said.

Local authorities are "still in the process of determining if Pathway is an appropriate entity to bring to Porter County," Judge Harper said.

The CADC has been giving money to Pathway "in increments," Spitler said. Pathway has been using the money to pay a consulting firm for market analysis and to formulate a business plan, he said. The nonprofit organization operates on a sliding scale of fees, charging from $30,000 to $60,000 for a year in the program.

Spitler and Taylor cite success stories from local families who have been through the Pathway program as the origin of their interest in bringing it to Valparaiso. They remain unconvinced about its connection to Straight, both said.

"Who am I going to believe? Some local family who has been through the program, or some guy I don't know?" Taylor said, referring to ISAC.

Taylor and Spitler point to Pathway's success rate. The agency advertises that 82 percent of its clients remain sober one to three years after graduation. Critics, however, say the figures are deceptive because they do not reflect the high rate of clients who drop out because of dissatisfaction with the intense nature of the program and what they see as its inadequacy in dealing with co-existing mental diagnosis among teens with addiction problems.

"If it isn't Pathway, maybe we should look at something else," Taylor said. "All I know is I need some help."


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