County considers recovery schools to battle addiction

ROCKVILLE — Opioid addiction has increasingly become a problem in Montgomery County and across the state of Maryland over recent years. In their July 11 meeting, the Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education took steps to combat the problem with a discussion on a possible solution: recovery schools.

 A recovery school is a special program for students who have problems with drug addiction. The program would target students in grades 8-12. These schools will help students stay sober, and give students the tools that they need to stay away from drugs in the future. Nearly 40 of these types of schools currently exist across the United States, and it is an option that MCPS is weighing in order to combat drug overdose problems in its own county.

The emphasis for the proposed recovery school came down to three points in the meeting. First, that the school would be committed to recovery maintenance and support rather than primary treatment. Second, the proposed program would have an equal balance between therapy and academics. Third, the school would be focused on graduating its own students, rather than sending them back to their home school.

“I think it’s really important for us to address the problems that we face right now in 2017,” said Student Member of the Board of Education Matt Post of the importance of recovery schools. “It is clear that we are in this problem, and that we are not immune.”

The problem that Post is talking about is the high drug use in Montgomery County among school-age kids. The issue of drug overdose in Montgomery County, and Maryland as a whole, is of utmost concern. Data given at the meeting showed a large increase in deaths from drug overdose from 2014 to 2016. In addition, drug- and alcohol-related incidents cause by far the most emergency room visits in Maryland among 15- to 24-yearolds in 2014, and it has only gotten worse since.

While the majority of the Board seemed to be in favor of these recovery school programs, issues arose over how the plan would be put into place, in addition to combating problems that come with such a school being put into commission. These problems included relapses among students in the recovery schools as well as how to maintain the Free and Reduced Meals (FARMS) program with the high cost of recovery schools.

With MCPS working on a tight budget, the cost of the proposed recovery school could prove problematic, thus causing concerns over keeping programs like FARMS. According to the presentation at the meeting, in the first year of operation (which is projected to be the 2019-2020 school year) the recovery school would cost MCPS between $2,285,891 and $2,473,891. Another option that was presented for the school in order to reduce cost, and one that was favored by many members of the board, is a regional recovery school. This school would bring in students from Montgomery County, as well as students in neighboring counties. Such a plan would reduce the cost that MCPS would have to pay for the school. If MCPS were to partner with three other counties, the projected cost would be $618,472 in the first year. With two other counties, the first year’s cost would be $824,630. With only one other county, MCPS would have to pay $1,236,945 in the first year.

MCPS superintendent Jack Smith is in favor of the idea of a regional recovery school, and it is something that he has asked to be put on the agenda for the upcoming superintendents meeting, as he hopes that other superintendents will join MCPS in the creation of such a program.


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