Kids Struggling With Addiction Need School, Too, But There Are Few Options

When young people struggle through addiction or substance abuse, there’s also the question of school. Getting behind academically can be detrimental to learning and future success, but traditional school can be tough for kids whose peer groups use drugs or alcohol and where treatment resources can be limited.

Research shows that students in recovery schools, designed to meet both academic and therapeutic needs, have better sobriety levels — and usually better grades, than students with addiction who remain in regular class settings. Across the country, there are just a few dozen so-called recovery schools. In Wisconsin, there is just one, with room for about 15 students.

Horizon High School sits in a strip mall on the outskirts of Madison, down the street from Target and Pick’n Save.

It’s been open for 12 years and more than 150 kids have passed through the doors, at one point or another.

“At the beginning, when I first got introduced to the idea of coming here, I thought it was going to be intense, and I didn’t like that idea,” says Des, who’s 15 and just finished her first year at Horizon. “But it’s not bad, because it’s a small, comfortable environment.”

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