Governor Andrew Cuomo hopes to advance legislation this year that would create New York State's first “recovery high schools”.
These are schools within schools where students recovering from alcohol and drug addiction can take classes in a substance-free and supportive environment.
A local support group has been working for more than a year to bring a recovery school to Rochester.
David Attridge of the Upstate Recovery Council says, unlike Governor Coumo's plan, in which the school would operate under the BOCES program, his group prefers to establish a charter or private recovery school locally. It would be modeled after a school in Massachusetts with social workers and guidance counselors who have backgrounds in addiction treatment. In addition to attending classes required at any high school in New York, students would be able to join 12-step support groups at the school.
Attridge said his group is developing a curriculum, working on funding, and recently looked at a couple of potential sites for the school in Gates and Greece.
"But we ran into stigma problems....'Not in my back yard, we're not really sure we want those people around,' he said. “As soon as we hear that, we walk away."
But Attridge doesn’t seem discouraged. He said he'll keep looking for the right location.
"We want to make sure it's a school that's in a good area, too. We just don't want an area where students walk outside to leave and there's people offering them things right there."
20-year old Carlee Hulsizer is one of about 20 volunteers working on the project. Like Attridge and some of the other volunteers, this work is personal for her. Hulsizer attended high school in Spencerport when she got hooked, first on alcohol, then drugs.
"I was the A-plus student involved in a bunch of extracurriculars; I was captain of my volleyball team, but all of that was taken away because drugs were more important and getting high was more important."
Hulsizer believes she would have felt more supported in her recovery if she had been able to attend a recovery school with peers who were traveling a similar path.
"When I first got clean and I was still going to school, and I'm in the classroom...I'm still with people I was partying with a couple of weeks ago, and there's still that temptation,” she said. “There are people asking, "Why aren't you coming out this weekend?', and 'Why aren't you doing this?' "
There are currently about 35 recovery high schools in the U.S.
Studies have found that students with addictions who attend recovery schools have a far greater chance of staying in recovery than their peers who attend traditional schools.