“Portage really opened my eyes and helped me become a better person.”

Vince, 20, Portage Ontario Alumni

Life to Vince always seemed like a challenge – one wrought with pain and anger. A physical response to it, felt like the right thing. Martial Arts helped for a while as an outlet for the anger, but it didn’t suffice. Drugs took over as they numbed the pain and anger.

“At that time, I didn’t know who I was, what my reality was, so drugs and alcohol became my reality.”

His mother stood fiercely by him as he faced his demons, but even she found it very hard to get through to him. The drugs and alcohol had created a thick fog around her son. She felt helpless.

“My mom was trying to get me to see who I really was, but I didn’t care. I only cared about the drugs.”

One day, Vince’s mother tried to stop him from using just before he was to go to work teaching young children swimming, he got enraged and hit her. He was charged with assault.

“Blood, sirens, police, jail and guilt – a whole lot of guilt – is what I remember from that moment. That was not who I wanted to be.”

Vince, a minor at that time, was ordered by the courts to participate in an anger management program. Given the history of drug use, a court counselor suggested Portage.

“I didn’t take to Portage right away. I didn’t think I needed to be there. I continued to be aggressive. I got into fights with staff and other residents there because I didn’t know who I was. Withdrawal and panic attacks were running my life.”

Physical outbursts were how Vince coped with difficult situations.

Once the drugs were out of Vince’s system and the fog lifted, something clicked.

“I was pretty hard headed and had to hit rock bottom before I realized what I was doing to myself and to my parents.”

Life at Portage became about his journey of self-discovery. By mastering 21 competencies developed by Portage, residents learn to cope with life without needing to resort to drugs.

“I realized my mind was really a lot stronger than I thought it was – Portage really opened my eyes. I learned to challenge myself to be the best person I can be.”

Vince chose to extend his stay at Portage to 8 months. He has rebuilt his connections with his parents and discovered himself.

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.

Following family tradition, Vince applied and has been accepted into the Canadian navy as a Boatswain – a sailor – where he will start another journey of life; one of honour and fortitude. He awaits his first call to duty in service to all Canadians.

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


Read Dustin's Story

Read Samantha's Story


  • 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

Virtual Tour

Frequently Asked Questions

Contact us - Portage logo