New bill aims to establish first ‘recovery high school’ in Virginia

Published: Feb. 11, 2020 at 4:30 PM EST
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A new bill in the General Assembly could help to establish a recovery high school in Chesterfield, Va. to help students struggling with addiction and substance abuse.

A school district spokesperson said they’ve been working closely with Delegate Carrie Coyner to get this program off the ground, and that the estimated upwards of $800,000 program would launch inside an existing school building, complete with teachers and administrators, along with "a professional school counselor, a substance abuse counselor, a school psychologist, and a nurse as well.”

A proponent of the bill, Richmond resident Ann Moss Rogers, says her son Charles needed to be around people – especially people that wanted to stay drug-free.

She talks about her son like any mother would: proud. She calls him the “funniest, most popular kid in school”, but now all she has are memories.

“What I didn’t know is that for many years, he struggled with thoughts of suicide and in order to self-medicate - to prevent him from doing that - he thought a solution would be to use drugs and alcohol,” Roger said.

Eventually, Charles got hooked on heroin but was able to get off.

“He ended up going to a therapeutic boarding school because he wanted to get his high school degree and also get the toolbox to work with his illnesses and his addiction,” she added.

Sadly, he took his own life in 2015. She doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else, so she’s backing a House bill that would establish a pilot program in Chesterfield to help 25 recovering addicts. It would be the first of its kind in the commonwealth.

“[It’s not] just an emphasis on substance abuse and the recovery from that addiction, but also having a place for academic support so the students can pursue their academic interest," said the Chesterfield County School District spokesperson.

Rogers says her late son would have benefited greatly from a similar program, and that sometimes she can’t help but wonder, ‘what if?’

“My son loved to be connected with other human beings - that was huge to him, and I think that would’ve been helpful for him to be in an environment everybody was trying to remain drug-free," she said.

The Senate Education and Health Committee is set to review it on Thursday, and should it become law, the Chesterfield School District says that if they can secure the funding, they might be able to launch the program as soon as this upcoming school year.