North River Collaborative-Led by the North River Collaborative and Brockton Public Schools, the coalition in December will
open a high school for students in recovery from substance abuse issues.
The state Department of Public Health today announced the award of a five-year $2.5 million grant to establish and operate the Southeastern Massachusetts Recovery High School, filling a need for a school setting that supports teenagers in recovery from alcohol and drug abuse. The school, which will open in Brockton in December, fills a critical need for families and communities struggling to help teenagers succeed in recovery.
“This is a great day for Southeastern Massachusetts,” said state Sen. Steven A. Tolman (D-Brighton), a leading advocate for Recovery High Schools across the state. “We have seen the positive impact Recovery High Schools have on communities across the Commonwealth. These schools save lives by
helping our young people suffering with the disease of addiction maintain their sobriety and continue their education in a supportive environment. Sending these students to a recovery school is often an important last step in the road to recovery.”
The announcement of the grant caps 18 months of work by a coalition of educational and service providers from Brockton and the surrounding area. Massachusetts has three recovery high schools - in Boston, Beverly and Springfield – but until now there has not been anywhere on the South Shore for students in recovery to enroll. The non-profit North River Collaborative and the Brockton Public Schools took a lead role in convening stakeholders from the region and spearheaded the successful effort to establish the SMRHS to serve the needs of recovering teens.
“When students go out for treatment and return back to their high schools with great intentions, they can find themselves back in their peer groups where their ability to maintain their sobriety is comprised. This program would bring them together with peers that are all committed to the same goal of sobriety, and in an environment that is supporting their education,” said Joanne Haley Sullivan, Executive Director of the North River Collaborative. “There is a critical need for this type
of program in this area, and the coalition – which was a unique urban/suburban partnership – worked hard to accomplish this.” Southeastern Massachusetts Recovery High School will be run under the auspices of the North River Collaborative, an educational organization that provides comprehensive services to students from its 10 member towns (Abington, Avon, Bridgewater-Raynham, East Bridgewater, Hanover, Rockland, West Bridgewater, and Whitman-Hanson).
The school will serve as many as 50 South Shore and Cape Cod students, ages 14- to 21-years-old, who have completed substance abuse treatment and are looking for a supportive environment in which to attain their high school diploma. The school will be funded with $500,000 per year in grant monies and with tuitions from the sending school districts. Those tuitions will be directly tied to the sending district’s per-pupil expenditure. Haley Sullivan will oversee the work of the SMRHS principal and seven staff members and the school will operate under the direction of the North River Collaborative Board of Directors. A School Advisory Board with members from the surrounding districts will also assist administrators.
“This announcement is the direct result of an incredible partnership between the state, the North River
Collaborative, the Brockton Public Schools and a number of local partners to fill a tremendous need for young people across the south shore,” said state Sen. John F. Keenan (D-Quincy), co-chair of the
Legislature’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee. “There’s no doubt that this high school will offer great hope to students committed to their recovery and provide them with a structured pathway to future success.”
The SMRHS will be an alternative, multi-service secondary school for adolescents with substance abuse and dependence problems, offering a comprehensive academic program reflecting the Massachusetts Common Core Curriculum. The program will lead to a high school diploma, GED completion and/or dual enrollment in a community college. Online and distance learning will also be part of the curriculum. The school will provide a multi-pronged approach to supporting students in recovery, including in-school and out-of-school counseling, family stabilization initiatives and educational tutoring and remediation.
“Substance abuse is a problem that cuts across all lines; it affects all of the communities in the area,” said Brockton School Committee Member Bill Carpenter, a driving force behind the creation of the school. “There is a lot of support in the communities for the mission of this school.”
The school will open its doors in December at 460 Belmont Street in Brockton, a privately-owned building that once hosted the Belmont Street Elementary School.
The location was chosen because of its centralized location and accessibility to public transportation. Proponents of the SMRHS were so enthusiastic about the school that the site and a principal were identified before the final award was announced. Haley Sullivan said hiring four teachers, a substance abuse counselor, a school adjustment counselor and an intake coordinator in the coming weeks so that they can begin developing referral packets and do outreach before the school opens at the end of the year.
Brockton’s Superintendent of Schools, Matthew H. Malone, Ph.D., said he is looking forward to having another alternative pathway for students to succeed.
“Recovery High School is another non-traditional placement that will help kids who might not otherwise have graduated get the education, the support and the skills they need to become productive adults,” Malone said. “It’s an incredibly brave thing for a teenager to admit they have a problem with alcohol or drugs and to seek out treatment. This provides a continuum of care in a safe, clean environment free of peer pressure.
We owe these young people our best efforts to assist them in their sobriety and we can show them that by proving we value them and their future.”