Trails Wilderness Program Death | A Tragedy That Could Have Been Prevented

Trails Wilderness Program Death

The death of a 13-year-old boy at the Trails Wilderness Program, a wilderness therapy program for troubled youth in Utah, in 2019 was a tragedy that could have been prevented. The boy, whose name is being withheld, died of dehydration and hypothermia after he was left alone in the desert for three days.

The Trails Wilderness Program is a private program that is not licensed by the state of Utah. The program’s website claims that it offers a “challenging but rewarding experience” for troubled youth, but there have been numerous reports of abuse and neglect at the program.

In the case of the 13-year-old boy, the program staff allegedly left him alone in the desert after he ran away from the program. The staff claimed that they were following the program’s protocols, but these protocols have been criticized for being unsafe and inappropriate.

The boy’s death sparked outrage and calls for reform of the wilderness therapy industry. Many experts believe that these programs are unregulated and that there is a lack of oversight. They also argue that the programs often use abusive and punitive methods to discipline the youth in their care.

In the wake of the boy’s death, the Trails Wilderness Program was closed down. However, many other wilderness therapy programs remain in operation. It is important for parents to carefully research any wilderness therapy program before sending their child to it.

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What is a wilderness therapy program?

Wilderness therapy programs are residential treatment programs that use the outdoors as a therapeutic setting. These programs are typically designed for troubled youth who are struggling with issues such as substance abuse, behavioral problems, and mental health challenges.

Wilderness therapy programs typically involve a variety of activities, such as hiking, camping, fishing, and backpacking. The goal of these activities is to help the youth develop self-reliance, teamwork skills, and a sense of accomplishment.

Wilderness therapy programs can be effective for some youth, but they are not without their risks. There have been numerous reports of abuse and neglect at these programs, and some youth have died while participating in them.

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What happened in the case of the Trails Wilderness Program death?

The 13-year-old boy who died at the Trails Wilderness Program was attending the program for behavioral problems. He had a history of running away, and he ran away from the program on a number of occasions before his death.

On the day of his death, the boy ran away from the program while on a hike. The program staff allegedly left him alone in the desert and did not search for him for three days.

During those three days, the boy wandered through the desert without food or water. He eventually collapsed and died of dehydration and hypothermia.

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Why was the boy left alone in the desert?

The Trails Wilderness Program staff claimed that they were following the program’s protocols when they left the boy alone in the desert. These protocols allegedly state that the staff should not search for a youth who has run away until 72 hours have passed.

The program’s staff also claimed that they believed the boy was safe because he had run away from the program before and had always returned. However, the boy’s parents said that he had never been left alone in the desert for more than a few hours before.

What are the safety risks of wilderness therapy programs?

Wilderness therapy programs can be dangerous, especially for youth who are not used to being outdoors or who have underlying medical conditions.

Some of the safety risks of wilderness therapy programs include:

  • Dehydration and hypothermia
  • Exposure to extreme weather conditions
  • Wild animal attacks
  • Injuries from falls, slips, and trips
  • Mental health breakdowns
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How can parents protect their children from the risks of wilderness therapy programs?

Parents can protect their children from the risks of wilderness therapy programs by carefully researching any program before sending their child to it. Parents should also ask the program about its safety procedures and how it handles youth who run away.

Here are some tips for parents:

  • Visit the program in person and talk to the staff.
  • Ask about the program’s safety procedures and how it handles youth who run away.
  • Get a written copy of the program’s contract and policies.
  • Talk to other parents who have sent their children to the program.
  • Trust your gut instinct. If you feel uncomfortable with a program, don’t send your child to it.

What should be done to reform the wilderness therapy industry?

The wilderness therapy industry is largely unregulated, and there is a lack of oversight. This means that programs can operate with little to no accountability.

To reform the wilderness therapy industry, the following should be done:

  • Wilderness therapy programs should be required to be licensed by the state in which they operate.
  • State licensing boards should develop and enforce safety standards for.
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FAQS

What happened to the Trails Wilderness Program after the boy’s death?

The Trails Wilderness Program was closed down in the wake of the boy’s death. The program’s owner, Kurt Hanks, was arrested and charged with child endangerment. He was later convicted and sentenced to probation.

Are other wilderness therapy programs still in operation?

Yes, there are many other wilderness therapy programs still in operation. These programs are located all over the United States.

Are wilderness therapy programs safe?

Wilderness therapy programs can be dangerous, especially for youth who are not used to being outdoors or who have underlying medical conditions. There have been numerous reports of abuse and neglect at these programs, and some youth have died while participating in them.

How can parents protect their children from the risks of wilderness therapy programs?

Parents can protect their children from the risks of wilderness therapy programs by carefully researching any program before sending their child to it. Parents should also ask the program about its safety procedures and how it handles youth who run away.

What should be done to reform the wilderness therapy industry?

The wilderness therapy industry is largely unregulated, and there is a lack of oversight. This means that programs can operate with little to no accountability.

To reform the wilderness therapy industry, the following should be done:

  • Wilderness therapy programs should be required to be licensed by the state in which they operate.
  • State licensing boards should develop and enforce safety standards for wilderness therapy programs.
  • There should be more oversight of wilderness therapy programs to ensure that they are operating safely and ethically.

What are some other concerns about wilderness therapy programs?

In addition to the safety risks, there are a number of other concerns about wilderness therapy programs, including:

  • Some programs use abusive and punitive methods to discipline the youth in their care.
  • Many programs are expensive, and they are often not covered by insurance.
  • Some programs have been accused of being cults.
  • There is a lack of evidence that wilderness therapy programs are effective in treating troubled youth.
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