VALPARAISO | Michigan resident Devin Baker stood up an hour into Tuesday night's meeting on the Pathway Family Center, which plans to open a teen drug treatment facility here in August.
After hearing nothing but success stories and the benefits offered by the program, Baker and a small group of other men from outside Indiana began asking detailed questions about Pathway's practices. The questions were all aimed at finding out whether Pathway operates with the same abusive techniques they say they experienced with the now defunct Straight Inc. drug treatment program.
"Lots of terrible stuff happened to us," Baker said.
While program officials attempted to calm the concerns by saying the confrontational and abusive techniques are not used by Pathway, Chesterton resident Jeff Brown stood in the crowd and offered his own experience as proof.
"It's a different program," said Brown, who said he graduated from Pathway after being addicted to heroin at the age of 17.
Brown said he was treated so well he still considers Pathway officials family.
"Today my life is 250 percent better," he said.
"It just worries me people will think now this program is what Straight was," Brown said. "It's not."
Faith in the Pathway program remained strong Tuesday among the majority of the crowd that packed the county meeting room to take part in an informational forum hosted by the local Community Action Drug Coalition.
The coalition is contributing $100,000 to help Pathway open up shop in Porter County to begin addressing the area's drug problem, which has been punctuated over the past years by a large number of heroin-related deaths among young people.
The 14-year-old Pathway program treats only adolescent drug users and their families, said Pathway Chief Executive Officer Terri Nissley.
Among the local success stories highlighted Tuesday was Valparaiso resident Sean McGill, who graduated from the Indianapolis program last month.
McGill said he entered high school with a desire to succeed, but turned to drugs and alcohol when he did not fit in.
"I felt confident when I was high," he said.
After his life spun out of control, he spent nine months in the Pathway program and is now attending college.
Sean's father, Charlie McGill, said it was difficult to admit at first, but his family did not have the skills necessary to help Sean.
He warned other families that Pathway is a long-term program, but said it offers a solid formula.
"I've seen such a change in my son," Charlie said. "He's growing up finally."