There are all kinds of different high schools out there. Your typical public school, which depends on money from the local, state, and federal government. Christian schools, Catholic schools, Jewish schools. Charter schools. Private schools. Schools for performing arts and for math and science. Boarding schools. Even online schools. It seems like there are more types of high schools out there than there are fields of study. Here’s one that you may not have known even existed, although it might be the most important yet: Recovery High Schools (RHS), which are designed to help adolescents struggling with substance use disorders.

The first of school of the kind, the Phoenix School in Montgomery County, Maryland, opened back in 1979. A handful popped up throughout the 1980s, mostly in Minnesota, but the first official program, Sobriety High of Minnesota, was established in 1992 and closed in 2013 due to lack of funding. Part of the problem with Sobriety High had more to do with its business model than anything to do with the students or teachers. The number of kids in the student body fluctuated as people started or quit using drugs, but enrollment was frequently low due to the campus’s no-tolerance drug policy. If kids were caught using in the school, they were kicked out. Unfortunately,  the Minnesota Department of Education funded all high schools the same way, according to a formula based on enrollment.

Today, there’s a group called the Association of Recovery Schools (ARS) that certifies high schools to be recovery schools. There are about 40 operational RHS programs in the United States right now, mostly in California, Texas, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. Typically, the process of getting certified begins with parents and teachers who recognize a need in their area and contact the ARS for help. It can be a complicated process, where a team comes to the school and does classroom observations, therapeutic activities observations, interviews with school leaders, students, teaching staff, and parents, and a review of the curriculum, policies, and procedures. They may also consult with the local board of education. It’s also fairly expensive, particularly since most schools with a bad drug problem are going to be in poorer areas. The total cost of the visit is $6,100.


There are three main goals for recovery high schools: to teach students who are recovering from substance use disorders, to meet state requirements for allowing students to receive a diploma, and to support adolescents in recovery. In addition to teachers, these programs are staffed by counselors and mental health professionals who can help assess the needs of every student. These schools help keep kids out of prison and off the streets, and they also give them a chance at a future by preparing them for college.

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.