NYS Exposed Education: Could Rochester be getting a public high school just for addicts?

March 02, 2017 11:37 PM

You've heard the grim statistics from the opioid epidemic in Monroe County and we know many victims get hooked on drugs while in high school or even middle school, but there's now a new plan to address the growing problem.

We spoke to people who are developing a high school for addicts.

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There are no public recovery high schools in New York State right now, but a man leading the teen recovery movement in Rochester has already toured the old Nazareth High School on Lake Avenue. He hopes it could become a safe haven for ninth through twelfth graders, to get them clean, so they can stay alive and hopefully graduate.

Research from Columbia University shows that teens that go back to high school after drug rehab: 90% of them will relapse, 80% in the first month.

Carlee Hulsizer/Former HS addict: “I got clean my senior year of high school.”

Carlee Hulsizer is now 20. She graduated from Spencerport High, but says it was tough.

Carlee Hulsizer: “I had to change people places and things which is hard to do when you're still in high school and you're surrounded by people who are still using.”

She is now part of a radio show called “Two Guys and a Girl”, which broadcasts a recovery show every Sunday night.

It's her partner, Dave Attridge, who's proposing a charter school for addicts to help students who were like Carlee. He'd start with 50 freshmen the first year, and add grades until it's a full high school.

Dave Attridge/Rochester Recovery Now: “We would take referrals from doctors, lawyers, drug court, from schools, guidance counselors….we want anybody that wants to be clean.”

He'd need a million dollar budget because there would be counseling and drug treatment throughout the school day, plus a very low student to teacher ratio: five to one.  

Rebecca Leclair/News10NBC: “This sounds like a great idea but if you don't have the money--how's it even going to ever happen?”

Dave Attridge: “That's why we need the state, that's why we need the legislature the assembly people we need the senators… To see what's going on and we need those funds."

Governor Cuomo just proposed opening a public recovery school downstate, and one upstate in Buffalo, and even if Buffalo gets the funding, Attridge won't give up. He's basing the Rochester school on the very first recovery academy that opened in Massachusetts.

It has spawned most of the nineteen public addiction high schools across the nation.

Michelle Lipinski/Founder of North Shore Recovery Academy: “Anyone walking into my school, they automatically have 40 students who are fighting the same fight, they speak the same language, they support each other.”

The founder has watched 254 students enroll since 2008. The graduation rate: 71 percent.  

Each year, she gets $500,000 a year in public funds from the Substance Abuse Bureau and the Massachusetts Education Department gives her $12,000 per student, and somehow she makes it work.

Michelle Lipinski: “If you ask anyone who has lost a child to an overdose, you can ask them what you think that life worth... and it’s a hell of a lot more than $12,000 I can tell you that.”

New York State gives charter schools $13,000 dollars a year for each student. The Rochester recovery academy doesn't have one dollar committed yet or a charter, but Dave Attridge is hoping to get a high school for addicts up and running by September of 2018.


Rebecca Leclair

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