Public perception of outdoor behavioral healthcare programs can be misconstrued as dangerous and unsafe. This perception can often be linked to a lack of knowledge regarding this innovative method of treatment, unfamiliarity with the extensive risk management techniques used in such programs, the inappropriate practices of less developed yet seemingly similar programs, and the vulnerable and problematic states of many of its clients.
While no treatment can guarantee the total safety of any child, adolescents participating in OBHC programs are actually at less risk than adolescents not participating in these programs. (Gass, Gillis, & Russell, 2012).
In 2012, the average American adolescent was two times more likely to visit an emergency room than an OBH Council program participant. As the above graph illustrates, OBH Council program injury rates are substantially lower than many common activities teens and young adults participate in. Most notably, injuries during high school football games are over 328 times more common than injuries experienced in OBH Council programs. And for a more similar comparison, teen backpacking is 20 times more likely to produce an injury than comparable activities in an OBH Council program.
Ongoing Incident Monitoring
In addition to the stringent incident monitoring and reporting required of OBH Council programs by their licensing and accrediting bodies, all of these programs voluntarily participate in industry-level data reporting of all injuries, illnesses, therapeutic restraints, and runaways. This data is analyzed annually to identify ways in which OBH Council programs can continue to reduce the risk clients are exposed to while maintaining treatment excellence.
The OBH Council risk management database has monitored injuries, illnesses, and restraints in their programs since 2001. This is the longest operating multi-program database in the fields of behavioral healthcare or adventure programming.
OBH Council Programs and Therapeutic Holds
In 2012, American youth in inpatient mental health services were exposed to 539 times more time in therapeutic holds than OBH Council program clients. The data has shown this trend consistently since 2001. OBH Council programs utilize restraints as an absolute last resort by making every reasonable effort to ensure the physical and emotional safety of the clients entrusted to them.
Illnesses in OBH Council Programs
In 2012, the total client illness rate for OBH Council programs was the lowest it has been since data collection began in 2001, at 0.13 illnesses per 1000 client field days, or one illness for every 7,936 client days of programming. On average, illness rates have shown a downward trend since 2001, suggesting that OBH Council member programs continue to be on the forefront of improving healthy living and hygiene practices with clients in the field each year
For more information on risk management in OBHC programs, visit