Dave introduced Eileen Shewin and Patrick Best who are Board members for the new Recovery High School that's being established outside Wyebridge in the old school on Hwy. 93.

Eileen said this will be the first school of its kind in Canada.  It is the result of inter Ministerial collaboration at both levels of government and builds on a model that is almost 30 years old in the States and has proven very successful.

Substance Abuse Disorder is a clinically defined mental health issue that occurs more often than we would like to think.  It is defined in the Mental Disorders of Psychiatry manual and affects 13% of the High School population in Ontario.  In the States the highest incidence is in Rhode Island at 13% so it is serious here.  Canada is number 2 in the world for prescription drug abuse.  175,000 kids in Ontario and 4,500 in Simcoe County suffer.

People call victims addicts and parents often enable the disorder by making excuses, saying the kid is going through a phase on is only smoking pot but this is a disease and it needs to be treated.  Unfortunately less than 1 in 10 sufferers get help and, of them, less than 1 in 10 get the long term support they need to stay sober.  Even after intensive treatment, only 10% show up at outpatient clinics.  The 28 day program may work but on release kids under 18 go back to their High School where peer pressure and availability encourage relapse.  The schools are not funded, mandated or trained to deal with these kids.

Eileen says the idea behind the new school is to change the culture from 'everybody is doing it' to 'nobody is doing it' and to develop a new peer pressure and mutual supports that hold kids accountable for their behaviour.  They will start with 40 and there will be teacher/student ratio of one to five.  It is a diploma granting institution that will continue to work with students that are clean as they move into society and look for work.  There is counseling available in house, group and individual, and there are student and teacher mentors.

Graduation rates in the US are over 92% and students report significant reductions in mental stress, depression, ADHD behaviours within the first year of attendance.  There are college level recovery schools in the States but Canada is far behind on this.

The program involves the community.  These kids are labelled and they need to redefine themselves and 'embrace their future'.  Teens have a relapse rate of between 10 - 15% but it is much higher in adults so reaching them while they're young is more effective.  Recovery, however, is a life long journey so the school tries to give them the tools to maintain throughout.  The kids sign off on their rights and submit to drug testing, locker inspections and a loss of privacy - they want to ensure sobriety there - but if there is a relapse they don't expel, they go back to treatment with them and start again.

These dependencies impose terrible social costs on society, it does not discriminate among its victims and social complacency is the greatest enabler.  325,00 hospital days a year to deal with drug related issues, millions of dollars in lost revenues and over 5 billion in enforcement.  The school is looking for local projects for the kids to work on in groups.