“Life is so much better when you want good things for yourself.”

Samantha, 15, Portage Ontario Alumni

Marijuana, Xanax, LSD, Oxi, “Molly” – the drugs of choice for a 13-year old girl who feels that her life does not have purpose.

Samantha describes her rock bottom as an “Existential Crisis” – a feeling that her life didn’t matter – that one day she would be forgotten, so why try to be remembered?

A shy and introverted person, Samantha turned to drugs as a way to create a new world for herself, free from life’s challenges and pain. Marijuana at first offered that escape – often smoking it alone. As time went on, the numbing high became harder to find, so more mind altering drugs were needed to maintain her false reality.

Samantha’s turning point came when a shot of “Molly” (also known as Crystal Meth, Ecstasy or MDMA) blew up a vein in her arm. Incredibly, days later with a raging infection, Samantha was able to get herself to a walk-in clinic for treatment where the doctor explained that left even one more day untreated, she could have lost her arm.

There it was… Rock bottom. As Samantha stumbled home that day, even in her altered state, she knew she needed more help than she was getting – she needed to find a way out.

“Being sober was my worst fear ever. My social worker at school helped me to find out about Portage and apply. My parents had no idea what was going on in my life. I hid it well. It was either kill myself, or get sober and I made the right choice.”

“At Portage, I discovered for the first time in my life what normal meant. I learned that I mattered and that it was in me to find a purpose to my life, I learned about the values of honesty, empathy and responsibility. Everyone at Portage treated me with respect and they challenged me to question myself – if what I was doing was the best I could do. They pushed me into finding myself, and I am glad they did. I discovered a strength that I never knew I had.”

“With help from my counselors at Portage, I developed a new relationship with my family – one based on mutual trust and respect. I completed my school credits while at Portage. They never let me get distant from education. The 21 competencies I gained at Portage remind me of where I was, and help me refocus my energies in the direction of where I want to go. I face life knowing whatever challenges may come my way, I am strong enough for them. Without Portage, this wouldn’t have been possible. I owe Portage my life.”

The approval process to access a residential rehabilitation treatment bed funded through OHIP is a lengthy one – often up to four months. An eternity for a young person in crisis. While a few Ontario families are able to afford private residential care for their children, often through second mortgages or drawing from retirement savings; the majority are forced to wait. They watch painfully as their children struggle with addiction, even get incarcerated, or worse, die as a result of an overdose.

Portage Ontario, a registered charity, is able to make available through private donations, free of cost treatment to such at-risk youth, so they can access treatment immediately. This not only ensures timely help for the young person, but often helps prevent a family breakdown.

Portage Ontario’s 40 bed residential drug rehabilitation facility for adolescents (ages 14 to 18+) is located in Elora and offers gender separate programming. A mandatory onsite school helps residents continue to earn their high school credits. An average stay is 6 months followed by 2 years of personalized aftercare in their home communities. Portage aftercare counselors remain in close touch with the families during this time. Youth are also able to return to Portage Ontario for a short 4-5 days stay to refresh their learning or if facing a challenge; these are made available free of cost to families.

As Canada’s first such adolescent substance dependency rehabilitation centre, Portage Ontario has helped over 4,000 Ontario youth overcome addiction and lead healthy, happy and productive lives.

We all know someone, whether a family member, friend, or colleague, who has been affected by addiction in some way. It wreaks havoc on our society and it is our shared responsibility to help young people who are suffering before it’s too late. At Portage, they can acquire the skills to free themselves from the grasp of addiction. It will assure them a better future, and benefit all of society.

Samantha looks forward to her new life – restarted. She wants to go to university and study psychology so that she can help others like her. Her life does matter – it always has – but now she can visualize her future.

With your help, we can help others like Samantha who are caught up in the growing 21st century opioid crisis.


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  • Eliminate abusive consumption of drugs/alcohol

  • Develop self-esteem and acquire social skills to better handle life’s challenges

  • Learn how to succeed in a school environment

  • Improve interpersonal skills and family relationships to develop a strong support system

  • Prepare for social reintegration and a continued positive lifestyle

How does the program work?

Upon admission, new residents are welcomed by those currently in treatment, who help them understand how the program works. Under the supervision of a team of clinical staff members, residents support and encourage each other through the program, helping each other to acquire the necessary competencies and knowledge to move through the phases and eventually become role models to new residents. Therapeutic Community Approach


Typical Day

  • Breakfast
  • Morning meeting
  • Therapy Groups
  • Activities & Workshops
  • Lunch
  • On-site school programming
  • Dinner
  • Night meeting

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Frequently Asked Questions

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