Earlier this month, Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter hosted me for a wonderfully inspiring tour of Independence Academy, a DPH-funded Recovery High School located in his city. Since 2006, Massachusetts has been a leader in the development of these recovery high schools, which offer a safe, sober, and supportive environment to youth in substance abuse recovery – and this was a terrific opportunity to see that work in action.
Like traditional high schools, Recovery High Schools teach a curriculum that meets or exceeds the state’s standards, and provide services that help students develop skills and strengths that are needed for academic success leading to graduation. In addition to academics, these schools also help students develop the emotional and social skills that they will need as they make their way in a world that sometimes can be tough to navigate and may present challenges, all while maintaining their commitment to sobriety.
Recovery schools were created in response to high rates of relapse among adolescents who had received substance abuse treatment and then had returned to a traditional high school setting and quickly fallen back in with old friends and unhealthy behaviors. These alternative high schools offer a safe, structured place so that students can commit to their recovery and a healthy lifestyle, and they’ve proven to be highly effective not only in reducing rates of relapse but also in increasing rates of graduation in comparison to rates for kids returning to traditional high schools.
Students that enroll in a Recovery High School are committed to earning their high school diploma as well as achieving and maintaining their sobriety. This is accomplished in part by creating an individualized recovery plan that is tailored to each student’s particular needs and which documents activities that a student will do both in the classroom and outside of school. Some of the activities in which a student might participate out of the classroom include regular one-on-one meetings with a counselor, participation in a self-help group, and family therapy sessions.
In addition to Independence Academy in Brockton, the Department’s Bureau of Substance Abuse Services – in conjunction with the local school districts – provides funding to three other Recovery High Schools across the state in Beverly, Boston, and Springfield. I have tremendous admiration for the determination and commitment of the students, their families, teachers, and all of the other professionals who dedicate themselves to providing a better, more hopeful future for youth in recovery. And I couldn’t be prouder of the role that DPH plays in contributing to the creation of these essential supports and services that are made available to these at-risk youth.
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