Professor: Recovery high school important step in helping adolescents with drug addictions

Matthew Adams

Colleges should do more to support students struggling with addiction because deaths from alcohol and drug addiction in young adults continue to rise, according to a social work professor. 

According to research from Lori Holleran Steiker, social work associate professor, deaths from overdoses in Americans between the ages of 15–24 more than doubled from 2000–2010. Holleran Steiker said many families dealing with addiction problems resort to placing students in recovery schools, but many of these schools do not exist today.

 “For some schools, they simply do not have the resources to keep the school going,” Holleran Steiker said. “Yet it is hard to break the stigma from parents. Even when they may realize their child has a problem, they only look at the problem as a negative. These feelings only add more pressure to the kid and the problems being faced.”

In September, Holleran Steiker and school executive director Becky Ahlgrim opened the University High School, Austin’s first recovery high school, located at the University Christian Church. While the school is focused on breaking the addiction, there are other aspects to the school that extend beyond drug abuse prevention. While the school is primarily focused on drug abuse prevention, Holleran Steiker said she wants students to perform at a high academic level, develop new relationships and recognize they can be successful.

Twenty-three students are in the program this year, and three will graduate in June, Holleran Steiker said.  

Mason Broussard, a recovery coach at the high school, said he understands the challenges these students are facing.  

“When I was 16, I suffered from drug addiction,” Broussard said. “The students here are 15 to 18 years old, and I understand what they are going through.  I am only a couple of years older than some of them, but I know they are watching all of my steps. They want to experience a fresh start.”

Sierra Castedo-Rodgers, director of the Center for Students Recovery, said she is happy to see the school and the center continue to expand.

“For almost three years, we have been working on a system-wide expansion of on-campus recovery support,” Castedo-Rodgers said. “Back in February, the Board of Regents voted to keep this program going for another three years.  With the support, we want to continue expanding and reaching out even further into the campus and community.”