KNOX COUNTY — Representatives from Knox County Schools and local drug coalitions are in Texas exploring the idea of bringing recovery high schools to East Tennessee.
A bill passed earlier this year would fund the schools to help students recovering from drug addiction and with mental health issues.
While there is still no definitive timeline for when we could see the first recovery school here in East Tennessee, this conference shows Knox County school administrators are taking the first steps.
"We want to allow them to have an opportunity to have an education in a really supportive environment that addresses not only their educational needs, but also addresses their recovery needs along with their mental health supports," said Melissa Massie, the Executive Director of Student Support Services for Knox County Schools. "We’ve identified a number of stakeholders that we feel like will be important to come together so we will schedule that meeting and start those discussions."
At the National Recovery Schools conference in Houston this week, representatives from Knox County traveled to Texas to learn how other states are using the schools to help stop the overdose epidemic.
"The kids who attend these recovery high schools are still expected to perform academically and are held accountable in these schools just like they would a traditional high school," said Karen Pershing, Executive Director of the Metro Drug Coalition. "It makes sense for us to invest in fixing a problem at a young age rather than waiting until someone has much more severe disease."
The recovery high school bill was passed last March, aiming to establish at least one recovery high school in East Tennessee. There are already more than 30 recovery schools across the country. Representative Eddie Smith wrote the bill in Tennessee and says the problem is bigger than most people realize.
"The plan is to recover a recovery school inside of Knox County sometime within the next 18 to 24 months," said Smith. "We had 33,000 adolescents using an opioid or heroin non-medically. That's one out of every eight students in our high schools."