Our youth faces different struggles every year, some worse than others. It has been no mystery that substance abuse is particularly dangerous for young people, a modern-day affliction which seems to affect young people with increasing prevalence. Needless to say, this has been a problem for long enough that individual states have arrived at various solutions for it, and at this point, it is just a matter of keeping those solutions operable. Recovery schools for young people in recovery from addiction are one good example of a great solution that is facing cancellation due to funding issues.
Recovery schools are a unique and relatively new approach to helping young people who have struggled with addiction. A recovery school is defined as a school that provides:
Recovery schools are able to not only provide academic assistance to young people who need to complete their education, but recovery schools also act as a sort of sober living environment, even though students do not stay there overnight. Such institutions work to prevent relapse and have been effective in doing so.
Research from the Greater Philadelphia Association for Recovery Education indicates that eight out of ten students who return to their homes after completing a rehabilitation program will relapse within the first year. However, a recovery school gives recovering students a good chance at reducing those odds considerably. Recovery schools do this first and foremost by simply removing young people from the strong influences of the “people, places, and things” that incentivized them to abuse drugs and alcohol in the first place.
Students who are able to enroll in a recovery school for at least three months are able to sustain longer periods of abstinence. Such students also report decreased negative feelings and a decline in the urge to use substances.
A 2009 study done by the National Library of Medicine indicated that recovering youth who reentered their old schools after completing treatment only stayed sober thirty-two percent of the time. Students who transitioned out of rehab and into a recovery school, on the other hand, experienced eighty-two percent sobriety. Furthermore, seventy percent said they were doing better academically in the recovery school. Unfortunately, funding is being threatened for thirty-eight recovery schools in states like Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, Florida, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Jersey, and Colorado.
The main problem with recovery schools from a fiscal standpoint is that they are expensive. The cost per pupil to run a recovery school is about sixteen-thousand to eighteen-thousand dollars per year. This is compared to about eleven-thousand dollars a year for a pupil at a traditional public school. Recovery schools are smaller but they require more resources to operate them.
There is a political side to this too. It’s not only a financial struggle. In New Jersey for example, the matter is all political. According to New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak, school districts in New Jersey are reluctant to lose per-pupil funding for basic public school programs that the state is already doing by having to transfer money to recovery schools. The senator speaks ill of the state’s disregard for the need for these schools, saying New Jersey’s disinterest in recovery schools has been entirely political and theoretical, not fiscal. Sen. Lesniak is responsible for co-founding the first recovery school in New Jersey, and he is currently working on a bill that will create three more recovery schools for his state.
We need to be willing to look more closely at recovery schools as a viable option for our recovering youth. Everywhere a recovery school crops up, success is had in the lives of the youth who go to that school. The positive results have been irrefutable. The funding presents a challenge, yes, but given the programs’ efficacy, we need to find a way to make these schools work in all fifty states.