Virginia Beach, Virginia – It’s an epidemic raging in our state because too many people are dying of drug overdoses.
Experts say some teens start experimenting with deadly drugs in high school, which can lead to addiction problems.
Virginia Beach School Board member Carolyn Weems would like to start a recovery high school in the city designed to treat students with drug and alcohol addictions.
She lost her daughter to a drug overdose in 2013 at the age of 21.
Weems said his daughter suffered from a back problem and then suffered a football injury.
She said 3 teeth were knocked out and she was forced to have 9 root canals and Caitlyn’s doctor prescribed her painkillers.
But like many people, prescription drug abuse took the young woman down a dark road.
“You live with the fact that your daughter is no longer here on earth and that’s something that I’ve had to deal with and deal with every day,” Weems said.
Weems is involved in several efforts to raise awareness about the drug epidemic.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of activity at our schools,” Weems said.
Now she hopes to bring a recovery program to the Virginia Beach school district.
She said the idea is to create a school designed to help treat children with substance abuse issues.
There are dozens across the country, including Northshore Recovery High School outside of Boston.
Michelle Muffett-Lipinski is the principal and opened the school 16 years ago after noticing that many students were getting into heroin.
Muffett-Lipinski said there was a lot of positive motivation in each class, staff had extensive trauma training and many had personal experience with substance abuse.
Former student and now staff member Rebecca Murray graduated from the school in 2009 after battling a substance abuse problem.
She said the school provided her with support and she is now doing the same to help the children.
“I’ve never been kicked out or made comfortable here, and for that reason I graduated. I think I did pretty well,” Murray said.
Muffett-Lipinski said she believes schools need to change the language they use when dealing with young people and substance abuse. She said so many children are afraid of getting into trouble. She said it was very important to understand why a student shows up at school or what they are struggling with.
She warns that she has seen programs start in other districts and not finish due to a lack of funding. She said that the programs must be able to be maintained.
Weems said if this program was created in Virginia Beach, it would likely be housed in an existing high school, students would take regular classes but also receive additional help and counseling to cope with their addiction and information for parents. .
“There would be a lot of education for the parent because we know addiction is a family disease,” Weems said, “I know for us when our daughter was struggling with it, it affected the whole family. .”
She says the hope would be to create a program in the city that could then help children get into college that has sober living communities such as Longwood University and others around the state.
“There would be 8 years of full support for these kids and it would be a phenomenal thing for these students to be able to lead successful, addiction-free lives,” Weems said.
We contacted the Virginia Beach School District about the idea. They said VBCPS chief of staff, Dr. Don Robertson, confirms there will be a discussion during the school board’s summer retreat about developing a “recovery agenda” in one of our high schools as part of the work of the divisional mental health task force.