Recovery high school opening in Columbus for students battling addiction

COLUMBUS, Ohio - There's no denying it — our county is in the midst of a drug epidemic.

Almost daily News5Cleveland.com is reporting about cases of drug overdoses, with many cases involving young children or teenagers. 

Leaders in Ohio say this has to end.

A recovery high school will soon open in Columbus. The non-traditional school is designed for students battling their addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. 

Currently there are 40 recovery high schools across the country. 

Sarah Nerad, who works with the The Ohio State University collegiate recovery program, is spearheading the movement. She said while these schools aren't new, they're desperately needed in Ohio.

"I think there's a lot more attention on this issue and the communities are able to rally around it more than ever before and I think people are just desperate to do something and help and this is a great way to do that," Nerad said.

They look and feel just like normal high schools. But the difference is the access to help available for students.

Counselors and professional addiction staff are on hand each day for anyone who may need to step outside of the classroom.

Nerad said they plan to have group sessions for all attending students because peer support is key to maintaining recovery.

She is living proof.

The 26-year-old was addicted to drugs and alcohol herself when she was 17 years old in Houston, Texas.

"The thought of returning to my old high school was so scary. Being surrounded by the same people, places and things," Nerad said. "I was fortunate that I got to switch high schools that allowed me to prioritize my recovery and that's what I needed at that time." 

Nerad has sustained recovery for 10 years. 

The Columbus school is aiming to be a tuition-free charter school. Nerad said that is important because they want to be available for anyone in need.

"Everyone in our country should be able to access recovery and that's not happening," Nerad said.

The Columbus Recovery High School Initiative will unveil their name and logo at the Ohio Statehouse on June 8. 

Meetings are also being held in Akron and Sandusky about recovery high schools. 

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