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Age Group(s): Pre-Teens, Teens, Young Adults

Gender(s): Male, Female, Transgender

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Letter to the Open Sky Community
January 12, 2024

Dear Open Sky community near and far,

Persevering in the face of adversity is part of the magic of what Open Sky students do when learning to live outdoors, and something we have done as an organization since our inception in 2006.  We now find ourselves facing adversity we have never experienced. By the end of next month, all of our teams – early adolescents, adolescent boys, adolescent girls, and young adults – will be down to just one, two, or three students.

With this, we have come to the heartbreaking conclusion that February 14, 2024, will be our last wilderness therapy graduation. Between now and our final day of operations, we will remain fully focused and committed to our current students and families with a core team of therapists, guides, and others to serve them with the passion and dedication we have brought to the nearly 4,000 Open Sky students dating back to 2006.

After growing in size during the pandemic, the last 18 months have proven challenging with changes in the landscape due to a host of factors: increased economic challenges, more insurance-based treatment options, and a societal shift in people’s perception of wilderness therapy. Last winter we were pressed to go through two painful rounds of downsizing, saying goodbye to many beloved team members.  We headed into this winter with a team of 110 employees, believing we were poised to survive and thrive as a smaller program into the future.

But with so few new students over the last few months, our situation was simply not sustainable. Further, we realized that even if we were fortunate enough to have a handful of students enroll in the coming weeks, we could not ensure that we’d be able to provide them with a key ingredient of Open Sky: the community experience of a peer group.

One way to move forward would be to downsize further.  After much deliberation, we concluded this path would not be in alignment with our core values of courage, community, and excellence. In order to preserve the quality of programming and depth of unique offerings such as Wellness Weekends and Family Quests, there were no clear positions to further cut.

Although the world’s appetite for wilderness therapy has abated, we believe the Open Sky theoretical framework, with its focus on physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and family health, has potential to flourish in a different way.  We wish we could manifest something new in the blink of an eye, but any new endeavor will take significant time – to find a right location, secure funding, develop facilities, and create a program in line with our core values while offering more opportunities for insurance coverage and increasing accessibility for more families. We can’t say exactly what the future will hold, but are committed to carrying on the spirit of Open Sky and we will be in touch!

While deeply sad, there is much to celebrate about the last 18 years. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to all the people who have been part of the fabric of the Open Sky community: students and families; field guides, therapists, and support staff throughout every department; consultants, home therapists, and other providers; colleagues at other programs; Sky’s the Limit Fund and other generous scholarship foundations; and countless other supporters in our Four Corner’s home and beyond.

With sincere gratitude,

Aaron Fernandes, CEO & Founder
Emily Fernandes, Executive Director & Co-Founder
Danny Frazer, Admissions Director & Co-Founder

Ownership Type
Private Company – Owners On-Site

Name of Parent Company
N/A

Name of Sister Company
N/A

Type of Land
Privately Owned

Do your students receive insurance coverage for more than two weeks?
N/A

Do you have an insurance utilization person?
N/A

Is the program on any insurance panels?
N/A

Housing
N/A

Community Service Requirement
N/A

Random Drug Testing
N/A

Transportation Options
N/A

Support Services
N/A

House/Community Meetings
N/A

Are participants required to do chores in the house/community?
N/A

12 Step Meetings on Location
N/A

Type of Students
N/A

Wilderness Therapy Model
Base Camp | Backpacking

Number of Phases or Levels
4

If program has phases/levels, are they tied to privileges?
N/A

Percentage of students who complete all phases/levels prior to leaving the program
< 50%

Average Length of Stay
10

Religious Affiliation
N/A

Types of Workshops Offered
N/A

Accommodations
N/A

Use of Personal Vehicle
N/A

Use of Electronics
N/A

Location of Workshop
N/A

Average Length of Workshop
N/A

Professional Associations/Affiliations
N/A

State and/or National
State License

Academic Accreditation
N/A

Is there individual therapy?
N/A

Number of individual therapy hours student receives on a difficult week?
0

Number of individual therapy hours student receives on typical week?
0

Percentage of licensed therapists?
N/A

Therapist average case load
0

Percentage of full time therapists who have a private practice outside a program?
N/A

Does the Clinical Director carry a case load?
N/A

Is there group therapy?
No

Average number of hours per week facilitated by licensed therapist
0

Average number of hours per week of group processing? (i.e. run by staff, interns, grad students, etc.)
0

Average number of formal family therapy hours per week (not social calls to teen)
0

Is Skype accessible for family therapy?
N/A

Are there Additional Professionals? (Select all that apply)
N/A

Are there Medical rule outs
N/A

Possible Medical Rule Outs
N/A

Is there a minimum BMI
N/A

Can Program accept insulin-dependent diabetics
N/A

Psychiatrist
Contracted psychiatrist as needed

Percentage of students on meds at enrollment
N/A

If psychiatrist is available to students, what percentage of students change meds?
> 50%

Types of Therapy Offered
N/A

Does the program have a level/phase system?
N/A

If yes, are phases/levels tied to privileges?
N/A

Does program have a milieu-driven residential model? (Staff are trained in model)
N/A

If yes — select all that apply
N/A

Integrated Wellness
N/A

Does program use time out rooms?
N/A

Line staff to student ratio during awake hours
1:0

Does program run background checks on all staff?
Yes

Is there an educational requirement for staff?
Yes

If Yes, what is it?
High School Diploma

Average number of hours staff are trained before their first shift
0

Are night staff awake or asleep
N/A

What percentage of the line staff are full time employees?
N/A

Grades Served
N/A

Average student to teacher ratio
1:0

Teaching/Classroom
N/A

Is the program able to implement IEP’s
N/A

Can Program handle a student who is more than two grade level’s behind in reading?
N/A

Academic Calendar
N/A

Can program support a student to complete a GED?
N/A

Can program support a student who wants vocational training?
N/A

Does the school have AP Classes or the ability to give or take a student to the AP Test?
N/A

Does the academic program have the ability to provide ACT or SAT Tutoring (on or off site)?
N/A

Does program have transition services for students?
N/A

If Yes, select all options that apply to your program
N/A

Are there additional fees that apply to transitional options?
N/A

Percentage of families that participate in various transition programming?
N/A

Scheduled or rolling admissions?
N/A

Is there an enrollment fee/outfitting fee/payment in advance?
N/A

If applicable, is the last month’s fees due at enrollment?
N/A

Cost per month/workshop/programming (in USD)
N/A

Percentage of clients who return home, or to a more traditional setting (like transitions to college or gap year, boarding school, etc.)
< 50%

Does a student have to sign themself into the program?
N/A

Link to Weekly or Daily Schedule
N/A

For licensed programs, but state or under 18, please select Incidents required to be reported to the state:
N/A

What is the typical amount of time a family should expect before hearing about an major incident?
N/A

What is the average number of clients you see per year?
N/A

Professional Associations/Affiliations
N/A

Payment Type
N/A

Has the program previously been part of an evidence-based study?
Yes

Is the program presently part of an evidence-based study?
Yes

Link to the study that the organization is part of
Contact Open Sky to learn about various studies

Type of Family Therapy/Work Offered
N/A

Family involvement
N/A

Who completes the psychological evaluation?
N/A

Minimum length of stay
N/A

Does the student receive a neuropsychological evaluation?
N/A

Type Of Programming For Students
N/A

Typical Student
N/A

Minimum IQ
N/A

Interview Requirements for Applicants
N/A

Additional Therapy
N/A

Therapist Case Load at Peak Season
> 8

Percentage of licensed therapists?
N/A

Average number of days/week therapist is in the field
2

Number of Individual Sessions with Therapist
1

Integrated Wellness Support
Art
Breathing Techniques/Breath Work
Meditation
Yoga

Do clinical assistants work with lead therapists?
Yes

Percentage of full time therapists who have a private practice outside of wilderness?
Not Applicable

Do any of the therapists operate more than one group at peak season?
Yes

What percentage of participants receive psychological evaluations?
> 50%

Does program receive a fee for evaluation or referral?
Yes – evaluation

Additional levels of care offered by facility
N/A

Types of eating disorder care provided
N/A

Specialized Programming
N/A

Is program focused on full recovery?
N/A

Computer Access
N/A

Cell Phones
N/A

Academic Options
N/A

School Name (if applicable)
N/A

School Website (if applicable)
N/A

Ownership Type
Private Company – Owners On-Site

Name of Parent Company
N/A

Name of Sister Company
N/A

Type of Land
Privately Owned

Do your students receive insurance coverage for more than two weeks?
N/A

Do you have an insurance utilization person?
N/A

Is the program on any insurance panels?
N/A

Housing
N/A

Community Service Requirement
N/A

Random Drug Testing
N/A

Transportation Options
N/A

Support Services
N/A

House/Community Meetings
N/A

Are participants required to do chores in the house/community?
N/A

12 Step Meetings on Location
N/A

Type of Students
N/A

Wilderness Therapy Model
Base Camp | Backpacking

Number of Phases or Levels
4

If program has phases/levels, are they tied to privileges?
No

Percentage of students who complete all phases/levels prior to leaving the program
< 50%

Average Length of Stay
10

Religious Affiliation
No

Types of Workshops Offered
N/A

Accommodations
N/A

Use of Personal Vehicle
N/A

Use of Electronics
N/A

Location of Workshop
N/A

Average Length of Workshop
N/A

Professional Associations/Affiliations
N/A

State and/or National
State License
Other

Academic Accreditation
N/A

Is there individual therapy?
N/A

Number of individual therapy hours student receives on a difficult week?
0

Number of individual therapy hours student receives on typical week?
0

Percentage of licensed therapists?
N/A

Therapist average case load
0

Percentage of full time therapists who have a private practice outside a program?
N/A

Does the Clinical Director carry a case load?
N/A

Is there group therapy?
No

Average number of hours per week facilitated by licensed therapist
0

Average number of hours per week of group processing? (i.e. run by staff, interns, grad students, etc.)
0

Average number of formal family therapy hours per week (not social calls to teen)
0

Is Skype accessible for family therapy?
N/A

Are there Additional Professionals? (Select all that apply)
N/A

Are there Medical rule outs
N/A

Possible Medical Rule Outs
N/A

Is there a minimum BMI
N/A

Can Program accept insulin-dependent diabetics
N/A

Psychiatrist
Contracted psychiatrist as needed

Percentage of students on meds at enrollment
N/A

If psychiatrist is available to students, what percentage of students change meds?
< 50%

Types of Therapy Offered
N/A

Does the program have a level/phase system?
N/A

If yes, are phases/levels tied to privileges?
N/A

Does program have a milieu-driven residential model? (Staff are trained in model)
N/A

If yes — select all that apply
N/A

Integrated Wellness
N/A

Does program use time out rooms?
N/A

Line staff to student ratio during awake hours
1:0

Does program run background checks on all staff?
Yes

Is there an educational requirement for staff?
Yes

If Yes, what is it?
High School Diploma

Average number of hours staff are trained before their first shift
0

Are night staff awake or asleep
N/A

What percentage of the line staff are full time employees?
N/A

Grades Served
N/A

Average student to teacher ratio
1:0

Teaching/Classroom
N/A

Is the program able to implement IEP’s
N/A

Can Program handle a student who is more than two grade level’s behind in reading?
N/A

Academic Calendar
N/A

Can program support a student to complete a GED?
N/A

Can program support a student who wants vocational training?
N/A

Does the school have AP Classes or the ability to give or take a student to the AP Test?
N/A

Does the academic program have the ability to provide ACT or SAT Tutoring (on or off site)?
N/A

Does program have transition services for students?
N/A

If Yes, select all options that apply to your program
N/A

Are there additional fees that apply to transitional options?
N/A

Percentage of families that participate in various transition programming?
N/A

Scheduled or rolling admissions?
N/A

Is there an enrollment fee/outfitting fee/payment in advance?
N/A

If applicable, is the last month’s fees due at enrollment?
N/A

Cost per month/workshop/programming (in USD)
N/A

Percentage of clients who return home, or to a more traditional setting (like transitions to college or gap year, boarding school, etc.)
N/A

Does a student have to sign themself into the program?
N/A

Link to Weekly or Daily Schedule
N/A

For licensed programs, but state or under 18, please select Incidents required to be reported to the state:
N/A

What is the typical amount of time a family should expect before hearing about an major incident?
N/A

What is the average number of clients you see per year?
N/A

Professional Associations/Affiliations
N/A

Payment Type
N/A

Has the program previously been part of an evidence-based study?
N/A

Is the program presently part of an evidence-based study?
N/A

Link to the study that the organization is part of
N/A

Type of Family Therapy/Work Offered
N/A

Family involvement
N/A

Who completes the psychological evaluation?
N/A

Minimum length of stay
N/A

Does the student receive a neuropsychological evaluation?
N/A

Type Of Programming For Students
N/A

Typical Student
N/A

Minimum IQ
N/A

Interview Requirements for Applicants
N/A

Additional Therapy
N/A

Therapist Case Load at Peak Season
> 8

Percentage of licensed therapists?
N/A

Average number of days/week therapist is in the field
2

Number of Individual Sessions with Therapist
1

Integrated Wellness Support
Art
Breathing Techniques/Breath Work
Meditation
Yoga
Other

Do clinical assistants work with lead therapists?
Yes

Percentage of full time therapists who have a private practice outside of wilderness?
Not Applicable

Do any of the therapists operate more than one group at peak season?
No

What percentage of participants receive psychological evaluations?
> 50%

Does program receive a fee for evaluation or referral?
Yes – evaluation

Additional levels of care offered by facility
N/A

Types of eating disorder care provided
N/A

Specialized Programming
N/A

Is program focused on full recovery?
N/A

Computer Access
N/A

Cell Phones
N/A

Academic Options
N/A

School Name (if applicable)
N/A

School Website (if applicable)
N/A