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The Availability of Recovery High Schools in Overcoming Substance Abuse


The article by Deborah Yaffe, titled “Recovery High Schools Make Dent in Teen Substance Abuse,” was published in District Administration journal in 2019. It talks about specialized high school for children and teenagers with substance abuse problems. The purpose of these schools is to allow a future for individuals that would otherwise allow their lives go downhill, becoming either vagabonds, criminals, or casualties from overdose, bringing grief to themselves and those that care about them. Yaffe (2019) reviews the methods implemented in these schools as well as the problems that arise in the facilitation of long-term treatments. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the availability of service, the professionals involved, the demographics, and the adequacy of the services provided for the needs of the population involved.

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Availability of Recovery Schools

The article identifies recovery schools as a type of drug-free safe havens that provide education and rehabilitation treatment for individuals enrolled. Yaffe (2019) states that as of the year of the publishing, there are 38 rehab schools in 15 states available. These schools are small in size, with the average number of student enrolling each year being around 30, with around 10 teachers to maintain a 3:1 student-teacher rate (Yaffe, 2019). One school mentioned in the article, like the Hope Recovery High School, has only 13 students, which is less than a class in the average public school (Yaffe, 2019). Thus, based on these numbers, it could be assumed that the availability of the identified service is severely lacking, as there is over a million of young individuals in the US suffering from substance abuse, with only 180,000 receiving treatments of various kinds.

Requirements for Admission

The requirements for admission include age and educational, as well as financial ones. Yaffe (2019) states that the majority of these high schools service 12 to 17-yearolds, which is the average age for individuals leaving elementary and entering high school. There are no prerequisites on race and gender, in order to promote diversity and educate students in tolerance and acceptance of others (Yaffe, 2019). Although rehab schools have a modicum of government and community support, it is not enough to cover the expenditures necessary to maintain the practice. According to the article, the average costs per student vary between 18,000$ to 25,000$ a year, which is comparative to college education (Yaffe, 2019). The difference has to be compensated by the student’s parents, guardians, or other benefactors, placing another barrier for admission.

Finally, although not a hard requirement, but the general trend in these schools involves enrolling individuals from other states. This practice, according to the article, has the purpose of breaking physical connections between addicts and their previous groups of peers, to eliminate the chance of relapse due to group pressure (Yaffe, 2019). The idea is to supplant former corruptive relationships with new, constructive ones, enabling a self-supporting network for recovering students.

Professionals Involved

Due to the complex socio-medical nature of youth drug abuse and recovery, rehab schools require specialized personnel in order to assist students during hard times, dealing with any psychological issues, and preventing relapse. Yaffe (2019) notes that all staff are either drug specialists or social workers, whose purpose is to help alleviate stress in students, offering council, and preparing specialized treatment plans for each. Some of the activities prescribed include Yoga classes, church attendance, and psychotherapy. The interviewees cited in the article state that traditional schools and teachers are not equipped or trained to spot early signs of relapse in students. Social workers with experience in teaching can do better, especially when running smaller classes, and having a close professional relationship with every individual in their care (Yaffe, 2019).


The article does not explicitly mention demographics involved. Aside from the average age (12-17 years) and the fact that most individuals in these schools have to change states in order to attend, not much is given. However, some additional demographic information can be inferred from the available data. The education such schools is expensive, amounting to about 18,000-25,000$ per student per year (Yaffe, 2019). At the same time, the families of individuals in question have to afford their children switching states (Yaffe, 2019). Thus, the solution cannot be available to individuals below middle class in economic standing, which eliminates the majority of black and Latino candidates from the pool of potential beneficiaries of the program (Hill & Mrug, 2015). The picture featured as part of the article supports the assumption – there is not a single black or Latino-looking person featured in the picture. The demographics of individuals utilizing rehab schools can be summarized as 12-17 years of age, suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction, middle-class and above, mostly white.


Rehab high schools as a service are effective in helping children overcome their addictions and return to a normal way of life – that much can be said for certain. However, the concept itself proves to be inadequate to address the needs of the majority of young people who are in dire need of assistance (Hill & Mrug, 2015). Moving states and enrolling in what effectively amounts to a private boarding school is expensive, thus cutting off the possibilities of treatment for the majority of children and families that would have otherwise agreed to it. This includes the majority of families of color, many of which are at or below the poverty line and do not have 25,000$ a year to pay for their child’s tuition. The size and number of rehab schools serves as a testament to the model of service being inherently elitist and restrictive – despite the concept being very old, there are only 38 schools available in 15 states, with most of them located in California (6), Massachusetts (5), Minnesota (6), ant Texas (8) (Yaffe, 2019).

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With the average number of students being 30, it can be inferred that only around 1000 students a year can benefit from the program at any given time, which is not enough to make a dent in the massive 820,000 people deficit of treatment and care in the US (Yaffe, 2019). If it is taken into account that the numbers available to public statistics tend to minimize the scale of the problem, the situation becomes even more grim. Therefore, while the idea is good on paper, it requires massive support from the local governments to start benefitting everyone, rather than select small-scale groups of people. Until then, rehab schools will remain a small band aid over a gaping, sucking chest wound that is the problem of drug addictions in the US youths.


Hill, D., & Mrug, S. (2015). School-level correlates of adolescent tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use. Substance Use & Misuse, 50(12), 1518-1528.

Yaffe, D. (2019). Recovery schools make dent in teen substance abuse. Web.

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