Northwest Passage

From humble beginnings to a forerunner in residential mental health care… learn about the evolution of Northwest Passage.

From its genesis in 1978, Northwest Passage programming has focused on blending traditional mental health treatment with arts and nature-based therapy. Though the problems facing children and teens have evolved since 1978, the fundamental needs for self-respect, trust, relationships, and steady guidance remain the same. And while Northwest Passage has grown in size and sophistication, we’ve never lost sight of the foundations all children need to be successful. Above anything else, Northwest Passage’s goal is to restore hope in our clients. By investing in the lives of marginalized youth, we are influencing and changing how mental health is ultimately treated and viewed. The transformations we see are no less than extraordinary.

1978-03-22 00:00:00

Northwest Passage's Founders Unite

Steve Ammend, Denison Tucker, Bob Behan, and John Klein, who earlier worked at Fairview Psychiatric Unit for adolescents together, decide to open a treatment program focused on using the natural environment to help kids heal and grow. They search for property in northwest Wisconsin. Rice Lake was the first area they looked at, but due to high costs and zoning issues they were unable to secure a place. They then concentrated their search on Burnett and Washburn counties. They found approximately 30 acres of land in Danbury on the St. Croix river owned by the Ailport family, but they had to get approval from the village of Swiss. A large group of locals converged on the village hall after meeting up at the local tavern – Last Cast. It was standing room only and the crowd was hostile, believing that the founders were sent from Madison to take criminals away from the city and bring them to their area. Chants of “take it to the center of the state” were so loud the chair had to use his gavel multiple times to restore order. The proposal was denied and a resumed search ended up finding the Moline Farmhouse on the Clam River. The founders acquired it without any fanfare and the program was officially licensed on November 22, 1978.

1978-04-01 00:00:00

Steve Ammend

“Bruce Deshein, a Social Worker Supervisor from St. Croix County and teaching professor at River Falls, was the guy that convinced me that we should start a program in Northern Wisconsin - above Hwy 8 - because there was a lack of resources there. He was a great supportive mentor initially and liked the concept. I used to stop in and talk with him at Social Services about my concept when I lived in Hudson and worked at Fairview. I wrote my initial concept out on a bar napkin on main street Hudson while I drank a tap beer after work. I then approached Deni, who I worked with at Fairview, about the idea and we connected. Shortly after that I approached Bob Behan, and John Klein who both worked at Fairview and showed interest in the project. I had known Bob from the Army and he was renting from me in the duplex I owned in 1977. His father was a psychiatrist in the Detroit area. Deni was all in and sold his house to get us the Passage I property and lent Bob and I most of our shares of the investment. My parents also lent me seed money, as did Bob’s father for Bob. All were paid back within the first few years. No grants!”

1978-06-13 12:23:46

First Auditor

Richard "Dick" Frees was Northwest Passage's first auditor and continued until Stotz and Company (Larry Stotz, Chris Rivard) took over in 1988.

1978-09-02 00:05:33

Northwest Passage Develops a Logo

Northwest Passage's original logo was drawn by Nancy Ammend, sister to Steve and Dave Ammend.

1978-10-24 14:49:44

Northwest Passage Welcomes its First Resident

Corey S. arrived at Northwest Passage two weeks ahead of the official November 22 opening date under a temporary foster care license. Corey's social worker was Sue Maitland from Barron County.

1978-11-22 00:00:00

Northwest Passage Opens

Northwest Passage, providing residential mental health treatment for adolescent boys, opens with one house on the banks for the Clam River in Webster, Wisconsin.

1978-12-22 00:00:00

First House Parents are hired

Scott and Joann Treichel were hired to be weekday house parents. Rick Sueme and his wife were hired for the weekends. This arrangement was short lived, however, and in 1979 Northwest Passage moved to shift coverage.

1979-01-23 05:58:10

Founder John Klein Leaves Northwest Passage

John left to become a science teacher and taught in Japan.

1979-07-06 19:13:54

NWP Embarks on its First Venture

The first venture was a 6-day canoe trip from Riverside campground to Grantsburg.

1981-01-01 00:00:00

A Second House is Built

A second home is built on the Northwest Passage property in Webster, Wisconsin to help meet the growing demand for mental health services. The new house is licensed as a group home for boys and girls. Just under two years later it was changed from group home to CCI (Child Caring Institution) now called RCC (Residential Caring Center). The facility expanded from 8 to 16 beds.

Northwest Passage

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