Posted by Susan Halpin on January 31st, 2020
Posted in: Blog, NLM Resources, Public Health, Trainings
Tags: high school students and addiction, high school students with substance use disorder, recovery, recovery schools, Rockdale Recovery High School, substance use disorder, SUD, Teens and Addiction, Worcester recovery high school
What’s a Recovery High School?
Recovery is hard. Even harder is maintaining sobriety as a teenager when you are expected to return to the same school and friends you had while you were addicted.
Recovery High Schools can help. These schools can be a safe haven for teens. Recovering students can resume their high school education in a setting where they know they will not be offered drugs. “Sober schools”, as they are sometimes called, also provide additional mental health support such as counseling, as well as access to peer recovery groups as part of the students’ school day.
Recovery high schools have been around since the late 1970s. Currently, over 40 recovery high schools exist across the United States. Based on a 2017 research study by Vanderbilt University professor Andy Fitch and others, students enrolled in recovery schools are significantly more successful staying away from drugs than those not enrolled in these schools. More recovery schools are likely to open as our nation addresses the current opioid addiction health crisis with a variety of solutions. “There has been a gap in adolescent treatment for many, many years”, says Fitch who is also co-founder of the Association of Recovery Schools. “The schools are one of the programs that fill in that gap.” New sober schools are planned in New York, Delaware and Oregon. Eighty-five per cent of the recovery schools are public or operate with some source of public funding. Opening a recovery school can be complicated because the schools must recruit their students, create and implement policies specific to the needs of their students and they must fund the additional services recovering students need.
NER Works with Rockdale Recovery High School
As an NER Education and Outreach Coordinator I am grateful for a recent opportunity to work with the Rockdale Recovery High School in Worcester, MA. Rockdale principal Mary Ellen McGorry and clinician Alyssa Richard participated in a unique webinar made possible through grants from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Community Access to Child Health Grant, and the American
Psychiatric Association Helping Hands Grant obtained by UMass pediatrician Dr. Magret Chang. These grants enabled Dr. Chang to oversee the creation of series of candid and powerful, videotaped interviews with a recovery high school student named Sam, Sam’s father and her grandmother. The interviews will help Dr. Chang’s medical students understand addiction a little better, as they provide a glimpse into a family deeply affected by substance use disorder. Videographer, Michael Laramee from Vivineer, LLC, worked with me, Dr. Chang, and the Rockdale team to craft the interviews he previously videotaped into an informative webinar that the NER presented in December, Substance Use Disorder: It’s a Family Disease. The family stories courageously shared by Sam and her family provide some unique insights into substance use disorder. You can access the webinar recording, presentation slides and comprehensive substance use disorder resource list at the following link: https://escholarship.umassmed.edu/ner/81
Information about Recovery High Schools was obtained from TIME, “Inside the Specialized ‘Recovery’ High Schools Designed Just for Teens with Addiction”, by Anna Gorman/Kaiser Health News, January 23, 2019 https://time.com/5509829/sober-high-school-addiction/