U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240
June 25, 2008
In Reply Refer To:
2930 (250) P
EMS TRANSMISSION 07/01/2008
Instruction Memorandum No. 2008-141
To: All Field Officials
From: Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning
Subject: Health and Safety of Participants Attending “Wilderness Therapy Programs” or
“Residential Treatment Programs for Troubled Youth” on Public Lands
Program Area: Recreation – Special Recreation Permits
Purpose: The purpose of this Instruction Memorandum (IM) is to ensure that wilderness therapy or residential treatment programs for troubled youth operating under Special Recreation Permits (SRP) are appropriately using the lands and waters managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM); are adequately providing for the protection, health, and safety of children participating in the programs; and are in compliance with state licensing or registration requirements.
Policy/Action: Currently, there is no standard definition for wilderness therapy programs.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) in their October 10, 2007 testimony, GAO-08-146T, before the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives describes residential treatment programs for troubled youth as entities that call themselves “… wilderness therapy programs, boarding schools, academies, behavioral modification facilities, and boot camps, among other names” and which “…provide a range of services, including drug and alcohol treatment, confidence building, military-style discipline, and psychological counseling for illnesses such as depression and attention deficit disorder.”
Based on this information and lacking a standard definition, the BLM defines wilderness therapy programs as those programs intended to provide a less restrictive alternative to incarceration or hospitalization for youth who may require intervention to address emotional or behavioral challenges. These programs are directed toward youth under age 18 with a variety of behavioral and emotional problems including substance abuse, addiction, physical/mental disabilities, learning disorders, criminality, psycho/social and sexual issues. Participants may pose a risk to themselves or others.
Additionally, these programs generally:
The BLM definition for wilderness therapy programs excludes the more general outdoor recreational and educational programs, classes, courses and activities offered to youth by churches, outdoor schools, environmental and wilderness education programs, colleges and public or private accredited schools, summer camps, youth groups, and adventure travel and adventure-based organizations.
Authorization of wilderness therapy or residential treatment must be performed according to the requirements of Chapter 1 in Handbook H-2930-1, Recreation Permit Administration. Also, given the sensitive nature of these programs, it is imperative that adequate monitoring and performance evaluations be conducted to ensure compliance with all permit stipulations.
Because of the heightened concerns about wilderness therapy or residential treatment programs for troubled youth, the following special requirements pertain to permitting their operation on public lands:
Timeframe: This IM is effective immediately.
Budget Impact: The overall impact to budget development workload is minimal.
Background: Widespread interest in wilderness therapy or residential treatment programs for troubled youth requires the BLM to ensure permitted programs are operating in compliance with state and local laws and regulations and providing for the health and safety of the participants. On January 18, 2008, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) wrote a memo to the Secretary making two recommendations concerning the permitting and operations of wilderness therapy or residential treatment programs for troubled youth on public lands. These recommendations resulted from an independent study the OIG conducted in response to a Congressional request dated October 11, 2007, related to these programs.
The two recommendations are:
The OIG also noted that the BLM’s use of the RMIS distinguishes the BLM as the only DOI bureau that currently tracks commercial and organized group SRPs using a centralized data system.
The GAO, on October 10, 2007, provided testimony to Congress which notes that many individuals cite positive outcomes associated with specific types of residential treatment. However, they also outline allegations regarding the abuse and death of participants enrolled in wilderness therapy or residential treatment programs for troubled youth. The GAO’s testimony includes a report on 10 case studies concerning programs where youth fatalities occurred on Federal lands, including those managed by the BLM.
As for oversight of residential treatment programs, the GAO notes that states have taken a variety of approaches ranging from no oversight to statutory regulations that require licensing and oversight. States differ in how they license and monitor the various types of programs in terms of both the agencies involved and the types of requirements. For example, some states have centralized licensing and monitoring within a single agency, while other states have decentralized these functions among three or more different agencies. There are currently no federal laws that define and regulate residential treatment programs.
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: 2930 Manual and Handbook – Recreation Permits and Fees
Coordination: This policy was developed with the assistance of multiple BLM Field and State Offices, WO-120, WO-170, WO-250.
Contact: For further information, contact Hal Hallett, Senior Outdoor Recreation Specialist, 202-452-7794.
Signed by: Authenticated by:
Edwin L. Roberson Robert M. Williams
Assistant Director Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
Renewable Resources and Planning
|Last updated: 10-21-2009|
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