Center that helps students with substance abuse gets upgrade

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A substance abuse recovery center for high school students in Jacksonville is getting an upgrade. 

River Oak Center is designed to help students who struggle with addiction. For the students' protection, News4Jax is not naming them. 

"I tried cocaine for the first time at 12 years old, and from there, it really went downhill from marijuana to cocaine to pills, and then it went to methamphetamine at the age 15," one River Oak Center student said.

But this is the reality for many young people across the country. 

River Oak Center is working to change that. 

Duval County Public Schools and Florida Recovery Schools partnered in 2016 to open the center. It provides a safe space for students who are battling substance abuse disorders and have made a commitment to sobriety.

At the center, students complete their academic coursework while receiving treatment and support to aid in their recovery.

"We either have treatment, inpatient treatment or there's not anything else. So, imagine if all we had available in the medical system is the emergency room -- same kind of situation. So this gives us an opportunity to meet with the youth before they need to be inpatient and see if we can help head that off," said Dan Renaud, River Oak Center's executive director. 

The center held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate its new location, which is double the size of their old one and more accessible to students. 

At the new location, students will receive free transportation to the center through JTA bus passes.

The center is the only school of its kind in Florida. 

Recovery schools like the center give students who are struggling with substance abuse a second chance. 

"Just giving me a will. Really something to work toward because I dropped out whenever I was in the eighth grade, and so it's definitely given me a lot to work toward and having those goals and ambitions in your life has a lot to do with keeping yourself clean," a River Oak Center student said.

The center currently helps 27 students, but has the capacity to help 50. 

For more information about the center, go to floridarecoveryschools.org.

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