Readers may recall our posting in June 2014 regarding the need to fix a serious omission in legislation that supports the establishment of “recovery high schools” for students recovering from alcohol or other kinds of substance dependence or addiction. The four high schools that have so far been developed with the help of that legislation – in Boston, Beverly, Brockton, and Springfield – provide a powerful resource for students who, after achieving some hard-won success in recovery programs, would otherwise return to the very environments where they fell into trouble in the first place. Because the legislation has not included transportation, however, students who cannot find a way to get to and from those schools cannot access the great services they offer.
We are very happy to report that an amendment has now been filed by Rep. Tom Sannicandro (Framingham and Ashland; Chair of Joint Committee on Higher Education) and Rep. Liz Malia (Jamaica Plain, Chair of Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse) to remedy that problem. At this time the proposal carries a “docket number” – HD975. Interested legislators may sign on as co-sponsors using that number.
The legislation would require school districts to provide transportation where that is needed for an eligible RHS student to get to and from school, and would provide for state reimbursement to the districts for the cost. The provision is “subject to appropriation,” which means that supporters will need to advocate annually for sufficient funds to be included in the state budget to cover the costs of transporting such students.
We urge readers to contact their state Senators and Representatives to ask them to support this initiative. You can identify and find how to contact your Senator and Representative here.
As we wrote in our earlier post on this subject, it is difficult to exaggerate the importance of recovery high schools as a resource for kids emerging from the extremely difficult challenge of extricating themselves from dependence on alcohol or other substances. To return a recovering addict to the very community where she or he first turned to drugs or alcohol can be fatal to the student’s hard-won beginnings of a drug- or alcohol-free life. There is typically a cohort of peers who are all too ready to welcome the recovering addict back into their midst, and the problems that drove the student into use and abuse of substances in the first place are all too ready to re-emerge, often with even greater force than before.
Recovery high schools already do excellent work with the students who can find a way to get to and from school. This legislation will expand the compass of that work at a relatively small cost to taxpayers. (And the costs of alcoholism and substance abuse that go untreated, as everyone knows, are astronomical at all levels of our society.)
Please ask your state Representative and Senator to support this very necessary initiative and, if possible, to sign on as a co-sponsor of HD975. We will follow up with an official bill number for this legislation in a week or two when the number is assigned.
Robert Crabtree is a partner in the Special Education & Disability Rights practice group at Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP in Boston, Massachusetts.
Students struggling with substance abuse should not be deprived of the free appropriate public eduction to which they are entitled for lack of transportation. Theirs are complex and high risk challenges which impact us all as a society whether because they are precluded from fulfilling their potential as adults, because they lead lives of noisy (or, worse, quiet) desperation, or because we miss out on the gifts they have to bring to the world. By denying transportation to these students, we are effectively relegating them to lives of frustration and failure. No one’s child should be left to cope with the miseries of drug and alcohol abuse for want of a ride to school. Every State Representative and Senator should eagerly run to the front of the queue to sponsor this initiative!
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