Abstract: Is a Recovery High School the Solution: A Qualitative Study (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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666P Is a Recovery High School the Solution: A Qualitative Study

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
April Viverette, MSW, PhD student, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, TX
Nadia Moreno, MSW, PhD student, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio
Rita Ruelas, MSW, PhD student, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio
Rebecca Gomez, PhD, LCSW, Associate Dean of Academic and Student Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Jennifer Vasquez, MSW, PhD student, Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio
Background and Purpose:Research demonstrates positive outcomes of recovery high schools (RHS). Peer influences and change of environment are the foundation of these high schools. Despite documented effectiveness there are only 42 across the nation.

This study examined the experiences of high school age youth in recovery from a substance use disorder (SUD). Participants were utilizing homeschooling due to challenges re-integrating into traditional high school. This research was the result of community stakeholder desire to explore the possibility of a recovery high school in the community.

Methods:A focus group of youths (n=9), explored participant experiences with recovery within traditional high school settings. Transcripts were analyzed using content analytic procedures. Two coders separately examined each transcript and identified all distinct statements; differences in identifying these statements were reconciled through consensus. Once all statements were coded into a category/subcategory, the coded statements were organized into nodes containing similar concepts and hierarchies of categories and subcategories. Inter-coder reliability was calculated resulting in very good agreement, Cohen’s kappa = 0.81.

Findings:Five themes emerged: Lack of understanding, consequences, treatment, supportive environment, and drugs/violence.

The theme most prevalent is supportive environment. This theme included positive comments regarding recovery programs as well as negative comments regarding the lack of supportive environments in public school settings such as, “Why didn't they just tell me about this place way before?” This is described as a requirement that strengthened their coping and motivation.

Lack of understanding describes experiences with stigma due to their SUD as illustrated by the quote, “But when I'd pass out in class or went through my overdose in class, like teachers just didn't know what to do.” Data illustrated that lack of understanding is a profound discriminating experience that is engrained in these students’ psyches.

The theme consequences is described as inescapable negative outcomes associated with SUD as illustrated by a participant who state, “they told if I come back, I'm going to be arrested on sight.” This theme is associated with legalities, sensationalized, and accountability.

Treatment is sparsely described as part of a required experience of recovery. Participants described treatment as an intervention required in order to return to school campus as one participant stated, “if the school aspect being more self-paced and understanding that people are going to have to go away and get treatment.”

Participants focus on drugs/violence is described with confession and acceptance as a participant noted, “you could go to the bathroom and buy cocaine. I bought heroin in the parking lot.”

Conclusions and Implications:Themes are consistent with many U.S. recovery high school studies that yielded support for these schools. Findings highlight common barriers to recovery in the traditional educational setting. In locations where there is limited support for a RHS an adolescent focused recovery program can bridge this gap by providing vital support.