Senate approves bill to give students who suffer dependency on alcohol or drugs greater opportunities to succeed

NASHVILLE – The full Senate approved major legislation Monday night which authorizes Local Education Agencies (LEA) to create recovery high schools for certain students with alcohol or drug abuse dependency like Substance Use Disorder (SUD) or Major Depressive Episode (MDE). Senate Bill 1626, sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), authorizes LEAs that open recovery schools to enroll eligible students, including those who are in another county.

“The staff of recovery high schools most often includes administrative staff, teachers, substance abuse counselors, and mental health professionals, with each playing a critical role in supporting their students,” said Sen. Gresham.  “This bill will help students keep up with their studies, while having the best supports possible to help them recover.”

The bill authorizes the State Board of Education to promulgate additional rules and policies in consultation with the Department of Education, the Department of Health, and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to ensure best practices are employed as schools are authorized.  It will also allow LEAs to collaborate with other school districts to establish a school to serve their students.

Introduction into a recovery high school would be voluntary under the bill. Students who graduate from the recovery school would receive a diploma from the high school they attended prior to enrollment to lessen the possibility of a stigma being attached.  Grades earned by the students would also be transferrable to other high schools.

Research shows students who attend treatment and go back into their normal high school have about a 70 percent chance of relapse. That number drops to approximately 30 percent when the student attends a recovery school after treatment.  In addition, a recovery school in Houston found that about 98 percent of the students who attended had planned to drop out of school due to their addiction. After attending a recovery school, 90 percent of the students graduated, and over 80 percent went on to seek a post-secondary degree.

“Research on recovery schools show it is a game changer for kids that were headed towards a very dangerous path in life of dropping out of school and possibly ending up in jail down the road,”  added Senator Gresham.  “As we battle drug abuse in Tennessee, it is important that we apply every means possible to get these kids back on the right path so they have the best opportunity to be successful and addiction-free.”

The bill is sponsored by Representative Eddie Smith (R-Knoxville) in the House of Representatives.  It is scheduled to be heard on consideration in the House Government Operations Committee on Wednesday.



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