River Oak Center helps students with addictions


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new program, partnered with Duval County Public Schools is helping local high school students suffering from drug and alcohol abuses overcome their addictions.

The superintendent says this is not only the first of its kind in Florida, but in the southeastern part of the United States.

The program is called the River Oak Center. The students in recovery are taking part in this, while continuing their schoolwork online and away from traditional school. Sadly, school is where a lot of these kids get access to the very substances they're trying to overcome.

"My parents were terrified of putting me back into school."

For 16-year old Mike, the road to addiction began with smoking pot at age 11. Pills came later. Anything he could get his hands on, he'd use.

"Muscle relaxers, Mescaline- at one point, I was taking large amounts of cough syrup to hallucinate," said Mike.

He has been sober for more than a year. For the first time in a long time, he's back in a classroom environment--thanks to the River Oak Center. Coupled with his treatment, this is where Mike gets a lot of support.

"I think this basically shows, right now, there is a problem and we want to help," said Mike.

These classrooms at the church have been renovated for the center. Students participate in recovery building, church chores, and community service. The focus is on healing.

Also as part of this program, the students take part in activities like yoga, art therapy, and even archery. They also volunteer at the community garden

Overall, the problem is very real. Data we obtained from the Department of Education shows during the 2014 to 2015 school year, there were 408 reported cases of drug use in Duval County schools. 32 of those were drug sales.

As Executive Director Dan Renaud explains, this program isn't just for students. Families will also get help.

"Family counseling; looking at things like relapse prevention, communication skills- as you know, addiction affects the entire family," said Renaud.

Best of all, it's free. For Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, having access to help shouldn't boil down to who can pay.

“To be able to offer in the public school system will not allow students who don’t come from
middle class or upper middle class means to access this type of program," said Vitti.

The program is currently accepting applications. The program will accepting 5 new students per month. This means they will have 5 students one month, 10 students the next, and so on.  Each applicant will be interviewed and student has to be committed to getting help. To learn more about applying, you can reach out to Duval County Public Schools directly. You can also go to www.floridarecoveryschools.org .
You can also contact Executive Director Dan Renaud at floridarecoveryschool904@gmail.com or by calling: 904-864-6463.


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