Lawmaker eyes funding for Virginia’s 1st recovery high school

Capitol Connection

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A high school specifically for students struggling with substance abuse could be opening in Virginia. If state lawmakers vote to fund the program, it would be a first of its kind in the commonwealth.

According to the Association of Recovery Schools, there are at least 20 states that already have a similar program. In Virginia, the recovery school would be in Chesterfield County but it would also serve 15 surrounding school districts.

“If you ask most of the individuals incarcerated today as adults their substance abuse started in middle school and in high school,” Del. Carrie Coyner (R-Hopewell) said Thursday. “We need to be doing something different than we’ve been doing as a state. Right now there’s no protections for students in our schools who are suffering from substance abuse.”

Del. Coyner is asking the state for more than $1.7 million over two years to make the pilot program happen. If funding is approved, the Chesterfield Career and Technical Center would become the site of Virginia’s first recovery high school.

Chesterfield County Public Schools spokesperson Shawn Smith told 8News the program would help fund 10 staff members who would teach and provide treatment services to about 25 students year-round.

“What this allows them to do is to continue to receive the treatment and care from that addiction, that substance abuse, but also have access to a safe and nurturing environment to continue on with their education and hopefully earn that high school diploma,” Smith said.

Coyner explained that the program is based on best practices from multiple other states with recovery high schools.

“We hope we come back before the General Assembly and the Board of Education and talk about how this can be utilized across the state because we know there are children in need of support across the commonwealth,” Coyner told 8News.   

The spending bill passed the House Education Committee but it still has to clear some more hurdles. If it were to make it through both chambers of the General Assembly, the recovery school is expected to open in Chesterfield by August 2020.

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