Safety/Risk

Client safety is our number one concern. Medicine Wheel clinicians, administrators, and guides make every effort to ensure the safety and well being of every client. In addition to extensive backcountry experience, all Head Instructors are Wilderness First Responders (WFR) and have received training specific to our area of operation. Each guide is equipped with handheld radios linking them directly to our base of operation.

Additionally, each Head Instructor carries a SPOT locator beacon which tracks the group’s movement via satellite. In the event of an emergency, Search and Rescue can be deployed immediately to their precise location.

While there are no governing guidelines for adult wilderness treatment programs, Medicine Wheel has chosen to follow the structure established by the State of Utah’s Department of Human Services for adolescent wilderness treatment programs.
Because wilderness therapy programs operate in remote areas they require administrative sophistication and logistical support in order to meet the individual needs of clients and do it in a safe manner.

For almost 20 years, we have designed our therapeutic and operational protocols  to not only meet and accommodate the needs of the present but to anticipate and prepare for events that could occur in the future – whether those events are environmental or behavioral.

Medicine Wheel at RedCliff Ascent has one of the best safety records in the wilderness therapy industry. Our 20 Safety Protocols include:

  • Though not required by law, Medicine Wheel has chosen to voluntarily follow the licensing requirements of adolescent wilderness programs in the state of Utah.  These requirements are among the most sophisticated in the country.
  • Our client to staff ratio is one to four. Generally, it is one to three, even lower than that required by law.
  • Our wilderness therapy staff are certified in First Aid and CPR.  Field staff are also certified in what is known as PCS – or Positive Control Systems. All Head Instructors are certified Wilderness First Responders.
  • 90% of our field staff are college graduates.
  • All field guides must complete a rigorous one week in-field wilderness therapy training camp and a three week internship prior to their employment. Training includes wilderness living skills. Field interns must complete the same curriculum as our clients.
  • Guides receive weekly clinical training in the developmental hiatus philosophy as well as the language of Ego States.
  • All guides are randomly drug tested throughout their employment and must pass a background check prior to hire. Medicine Wheel at RedCliff Ascent wilderness therapy uses a urine test for more accurate and comprehensive drug screening.
  • Upon intake, each client is drug tested and examined by a physician.
  • Our medical director communicates with authorized parents as often as needed to discuss specific health concerns for individual clients or any health related conditions that may arise.
  • A registered nurse or emergency medical technician visits clients in the field every 7 days.  A medical assessment is completed every 14 days to address any health complaints or concerns.
  • Cients are weighed, blood pressure taken, and a general health assessment is completed.
  • Any medical or behavioral concerns are related to Medicine Wheel headquarters at least twice daily. Guides are instructed to call anytime there is a concern.
  • Clients learn and must demonstrate basic first aid and safety skills.
  • Clients are provided a 3,000 calorie diet each day which has been developed in consultation with a nutritionist. This diet includes whole grains, dehydrated and fresh vegetables, fruits, and a fruit and nut trail mix.  In addition, clients eat tuna fish, peanut butter, and cheese. Clients are also offered a daily multi-vitamin and electrolytes when applicable.
  • Clients are required to drink a specific amount of water each day. The amount varies depending upon the time of year and temperature.
  • A registered nurse or emergency medical technician tracks each client’s Body Mass Index (BMI) from the day the client enters the program until graduation.
  • Our Outpost wilderness therapy facility offers field groups emergency shelter and food. The facility covers 168 acres in the center of our field operation.  Outpost is always stocked with food, fresh water, blankets, and clothing.  An on-site support staff is often just minutes away from responding to field groups.
  • Client apparel and sleeping bags are mountaineering quality and appropriate to weather conditions. Sleeping bags are exchanged three times yearly and range in temperature ratings from 20 degrees below zero to 20 degrees above.  Clients typically dress in several layers of clothing to provide protection from wet and cold.  Hats and boots are worn throughout the year.
  • Field guides remain in radio contact with Medicine Wheel base at all times. Guides are required to call into headquarters at least two times each day using two-way radios.  Instructors report GPS coordinates, staff or client needs, temperature and weather conditions, and any changes in itinerary. If two consecutive calls are missed a search is automatically initiated.
  • All Medicine Wheel wilderness therapy clinicians are licensed doctorate and masters level clinicians. They meet weekly with clients in the field to assess client behaviors and provide the most effective therapeutic intervention possible.

Besides these 20 Safety Protocols, Medicine Wheel has established an Incident Review Committee, or IRC, and Risk Management Bonuses – RMB.

The IRC was formed almost a decade ago to review and manage risks on a weekly basis. Every seven days this committee of veteran field and administrative personnel examine the cause, severity, and possible prevention of any incident.
If an incident is determined to have been preventable, the IRC determines the best course of action to prevent similar incidents. These actions could include retraining, policy changes, disciplinary actions, or termination from program.
Medicine Wheel at RedCliff Ascent offers Risk Management Bonuses (RMB) as a means of investing in our staff. Those who consistently do a good job of minimizing risk can receive hundreds of dollars annually above and beyond their regular wages.
The RMB is designed to reduce preventable wilderness therapy incidents that could arise from policy non-compliance or poor staff judgment. It rewards guides for providing a safe and secure environment for clients and staff.

Please explore our website or call an admissions counselor at (800) 898-1244 for additional information about how RedCliff Ascent can help.

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