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KCS to launch new program helping Knox Co. high school students struggling with substance misuse

The Elevate Program is meant to give students the care and support they need to overcome substance misuse and start live sober.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — A new program meant to serve people who may be overlooked by most substance misuse support programs will soon start in Knox County — helping high school students.

Knox County Schools will launch The Elevate Program alongside the 2021-2022 school year. It is designed to support students struggling with substance abuse and give them a learning environment that emphasizes recovery, relationships and rigor.

Spanish Version: KCS lanzará nuevo programa para ayudar a estudiantes de secundaria a luchar contra el abuso de sustancias

The program is a community partnership between the McNabb Center, Knox County Schools and several other community organizations. Experts on the psychology and causes of substance misuse from the University of Tennessee will also participate in the program.

“If we’re going to mitigate the opioid crisis in Tennessee, we need to start with our students,” said Jennifer Tourville, a clinical nursing professor. “They need our resources, first and foremost.”

The Elevate Program will give students intensive outpatient services alongside academic programming. It will also give them an environment where they can learn and work on their sobriety.

Students participating in the program will arrive at 11 a.m. and eat lunch. Then, at noon, they will participate in treatment services with time for enrichment on Fridays. From 3:30 p.m. through 6:30 p.m., officials said they will participate in classroom instruction.

Passes for Knoxville Area Transit buses will be provided by the City of Knoxville.

“This is not a separate high school; this is a program,” said Daphne Odom, special education and gifted and talented supervisor for Knox County Schools. “It’s important to make that distinction. To defeat stigma, we need to show those in recovery are not separate from their communities.”

The program has three goals: to reduce stigma around students with substance misuse issues, support sustained sobriety and provide high-quality education.

Officials said there are only 43 other recovery schools and programs across the U.S. and no such program previously existed in Tennessee.

Students will not need to transfer away from their base schools. On weekdays, students will go to the McNabb Center's John Tarleton Campus except for Fridays, when they will meet with community partners.

Transcripts will not show that they participated in The Elevate Program, according to officials. And if their graduation coincides with the completion of the program, they will graduate with a diploma from their original school.

“This could serve as a pathway for students who complete Elevate to continue to be supported as they pursue higher education,” Tourville said.