NY Gov. Cuomo Announces Plans To Open Recovery High Schools

By McCarton Ackerman 01/13/17

The proposal has already been met with widespread support from state officials.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is looking to give teens battling addiction a fighting chance at both sobriety and an education, by establishing two recovery high schools in the state.

Speaking on Long Island during one of his six regional State of the State addresses, Cuomo explained that the recovery high schools will "help young people in recovery to actually finish school and not compound the problem.” He elaborated that addicted students, who are often set up for failure among drug-using peers, will benefit from a drug-free environment.

His plan is to create one school downstate and another one upstate, but didn’t specify exact locations. The proposal has already been met with widespread support from state officials.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” said Mamaroneck Mayor Norman Rosenbloom, who has been hosting community forums on heroin. “It is time for people to be aware and cognizant of what’s going on, especially the parents. The kids know what’s going on. You go to any high school in this country and they’ll tell you who’s selling, and what drugs you want.”

As of August 2016, Indiana Public Media reported that there are currently 34 recovery high schools across the United States helping students stay sober and graduate, free of charge. Class sizes are small so that teachers can work more closely with each student, and the curriculum is flexible enough that faculty members can help students catch up if they miss time to attend treatment or if they relapse.

There are also plans to build more of these schools across the country. Massachusetts State Senator Karen Spilka announced in May 2015 that $1 million in funding will go towards opening two recovery high schools in the state, including one in Worcester. Massachusetts already has similar institutions in Boston, Beverly and Springfield.

Actress Kristen Johnston, an advocate of recovery high schools, joined forces with Lavelle Preparatory Charter School in Staten Island not long ago, where she implemented her SLAM (Sobriety, Learning and Motivation) program to support students in recovery.

However, some of these schools have been met with resistance from the community. Seattle-based Interagency Academy received hundreds of signatures from parents who objected to its location near an elementary school and expressed concerns of drug dealers setting up shop nearby. Other parents at John Hay Elementary, located across the street from Interagency, were upset about not being notified beforehand.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.