Recovery High School could be "life-saving" for students recovering from addiction

APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) Wisconsin is looking to become one of roughly a dozen states to offer a unique school for students in recovery for substance abuse.

Lawmakers are considering the start of a recovery high school.

Those who work with students in recovery say the state needs more options to deal with addiction.

"If I was able to refer students to recovery high school, the ones that I know that absolutely needed it, it would be life-changing, and it actually would be life -saving," says Anthony Alvarado, president and co-founder of Rise Together.

Alvarado has become a well known voice in the recovery community at both a state and now national level.

He was 14 when he started using drugs, but is now thriving in long-term recovery.

Through his organization Rise Together, he and co-founder Douglas Darby are able to use their stories, experience and charisma to speak with and help students face and overcome addiction.

"There needs to be more recovery support services, so we can build a community that actually lifts these people up instead of pushing these people down," says Alvarado.

A proposal before state lawmakers would do that by creating a recovery high school.

It would be a charter school for students who've successfully completed treatment, removing teens from an environment with friends or pressures that could send them back to addiction.

A private recovery school does exist in Madison, but this would be public.

"They continue their education in this school that actually continues to support them in recovery, continues to support them with counseling. There's other peers that are in recovery as well," says Marinette Representative John Nygren.

He's pushing for the bill, which he says has already garnered bipartisan support.

Funding may be the biggest hurdle. $50,000 would come from the state to help with startup costs. Nygren says $50,000 for matching funds has also been raised.

The recovery school would also receive general funding which other public schools typically receive, as well as have the ability to bill private insurance or Medicaid for counseling services.

Nygren says its location is yet to be determined, but it would likely be in a well-populated area and available to students across the state.

Alvarado says recovery schools in other states have shown success and fill a gap he says school administrators tell him they struggle with.

"Look... we are doing our best to support these youth, but we're not AODA professionals. We're not treatment providers," he says.

He cites national studies showing one out of every three families is impacted by addiction, revealing a need for more support at younger ages.

"More education, more prevention, more awareness can be part of the solution," he says.