Is it safe to send a teen back to school with his or her dealer? No! Recovering from addiction almost always requires a change in how we deal with people, places, and things. That’s why the McShin Foundation partnered with St. Joseph’s Villa to open the McShin Academy, Virginia’s first recovery high school.
McShin Academy, located on the Villa campus, has two main goals:
- Help students recover from substance use disorders
- Continue their education in a small and nurturing environment
“We have seen an alarming rise in opioid use and fatalities among teenagers,” said Honesty Liller, CEO of the McShin Foundation. “There is an increased need to help teens recover while keeping them in school and engaged in other activities.”
Success Breeds Success
The McShin Foundation is Virginia’s leading Peer‐to‐Peer Recovery Community Organization. In fact, the majority of their staff are graduates of the Foundation’s recovery program. They’re big on giving participants job skills and a purpose.
Strictly peer run, their main recovery center is open 365 days a year. Program participants live in recovery houses, and they have to pass drug tests, follow curfews, and attend mandatory meetings, including:
- 12-Step Meetings
- Faith based recovery programs
- SMART recovery meetings
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
Clients who need extra therapy are linked to clinical service providers in the area. McShin also has three jail-based recovery centers. In the past year, 423 patients have found success with McShin’s model of peer recovery.
While the average stay is three to five months, participants can stay for up to three years. Step-up houses and apartments help patients acclimate to newer levels of freedom.
New Dogs Learn Old Tricks In Recovery High Schools
What works for the McShin foundation is now being used to help high schoolers. Students in the McShin Academy receive guidance from McShin’s peer recovery coaches. St. Joseph’s Villa, working with county schools, provides education services including:
- One-on-one learning with home-bound teachers in math, science, social studies, and English
- Cooking lessons
- Life skills
- Field trips
- Peer counseling
Most of all, students are able to have fun in the academy without engaging in harmful behaviors. The Villa currently operates four schools on its 82‐acre campus that address students’ distinct academic and behavioral needs. Each recovery high school, and they have four, is uniquely designed to address the distinct needs of the populations they serve.
The McShin Academy students come from all different backgrounds and struggle with various addictions, but they all have one thing in common. They don’t feel safe going back to same environment. Peer pressure and temptations at school plus an absence of positive coping strategies equaled disaster for these teens. Thus, McShin’s hybrid academy blends the best of education and recovery. Parents drop the students off in the morning and pick them up after school.
The goal is to enable high school students to safely, and with guidance, focus on recovery while continuing their education.
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Pam is the author of Co-dependent In The Kitchen, and she's a contributing editor for Recovery Guidance. She's a recovery advocate who likes long walks on the beach and chocolate.