Our point of view: Stimulus high schools deserve a financial boost | Opinion

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Given the worsening opioid and education crises amid the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing the state’s investment in its recovery high schools would be a wise move.

The schools – there are five statewide, including one in Beverly – specialize in helping teens continue their education while dealing with drug addiction. Too often, young people with opioid or alcohol problems walk away from school, losing their education and losing touch with the support systems they need to be successful.

Attending these schools comes at a cost, however.

“Our students travel a lot to come to school every day, and some are in transit for two hours a day just so they can attend a school where they feel safe from their addiction and mental health issues,” said Michelle Lipinksi, Principal of Northshore Recovery High School. lawmakers earlier this week. Northshore serves students in 30 local communities, and transportation costs often appear to be a key issue for school administrators and parents.

Recovery high school students often also have special educational needs that “go beyond recovery and mental health support,” Lipinksi said. “These are complicated young people who need the support of a recovery school. There is no single path for recovery. “

State Senator Joan Lovely sponsored legislation that would send more resources to Northshore and her fellow salvage high schools. Under the state’s education formula, school districts with a high percentage of students from low-income families or special education receive more money. As part of Lovely’s plan, this money would also be extended to recovery high schools. (The state spends an average of $ 11,448 per student per year. National estimates put the per student cost of educating a recovering high school student between $ 18,000 and $ 25,000.)

The extra money would come at an important time in the fight against opioid addiction. After a few years of improving statistics, the number of residents suffering from drug addiction – and losing their lives – has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, when life is in turmoil and mental health and recovery resources are scarce or difficult to access.

There were 2,104 confirmed and suspected opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts in 2020 – a 5% increase from the previous year, according to state health data.

Meanwhile, recovery high schools have proven their worth.

A 2017 study by researchers at Vanderbilt University found that students in rehabilitation schools were significantly more likely than those who did not attend those schools to report quitting drugs and alcohol for six months. after being interviewed for the first time.

Schools also help students academically, state education commissioner Jeffrey Riley told the legislature two years ago.

“Many of these students experienced an interruption in their academic careers due to time spent in treatment or absence from school due to a substance use disorder and / or mental health crises. “Riley wrote in a report on the effectiveness of schools. “They are at risk of dropping out of high school or falling behind in their studies.”

Even with that record, the Legislature set aside just $ 2.7 million for the five recovery schools in this year’s budget.

The paltry funding means that schools are often financially strapped. Transportation is always an issue, as is the fact that schools in the hometown are not always willing to pay the cost of sending one of their students to Beverly.

This means that registrations can fluctuate from year to year, despite an increasing need for services.

Lovely’s proposal would go a long way to filling this gap.


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