For Immediate Release - January 19, 2012

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR MURRAY CELEBRATES GRAND OPENING OF COMMONWEALTH’S FOURTH RECOVERY SCHOOL

Independence Academy in Brockton to provide safe, sober and supportive environment for students struggling with addiction

BROCKTON – Thursday, January 19, 2012 – Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray today celebrated the grand opening of Independence Academy, a new recovery school designed to provide a safe, sober and supportive school environment for students struggling with addiction. Independence Academy, operated by the North River Collaborative, joins three existing recovery schools in Beverly, Boston and Springfield.

“Our Administration has seen positive results from the recovery schools in Boston, Beverly, and Springfield and we look forward to Independence Academy serving students in the southeastern region,” said Lieutenant Governor Murray. “Independence Academy and all recovery schools combine a full educational curriculum with treatment and prevention services that help students who are struggling with addiction get on a path for recovery and academic success.”

Independence Academy joins three existing recovery schools in Beverly, Boston and Springfield. Through the end of Fiscal Year 2011, these three schools served 520 students. Independence Academy will serve students in southeastern Massachusetts, including the South Shore and Metro South regions. Following a Request for Proposal, all four high schools received funding by the Patrick-Murray Administration’s Department of Public Health in September 2011.

Massachusetts is a national leader in the recovery school program. Since 2008, Lieutenant Governor Murray has chaired the Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention, which works collaboratively with state agencies and recovery schools to ensure a learning environment free of alcohol and other drugs where students can develop the skills and strengths needed for personal, academic and vocational success. In this environment, recovery efforts are understood, valued and fostered for students struggling with addiction. Through the Interagency Council, the Administration coordinates with principals and administrators of the recovery schools for periodic updates and evaluations.

“Recovery schools, like Independence Academy in Brockton, address a real need in our communities," said Congressman Stephen F. Lynch. "They give young people fighting substance abuse and addiction a safe space in which to stabilize their lives, learn and get support for their recovery. I am pleased to see that Independence Academy will now serve southeastern Massachusetts and I commend Governor Patrick, Lieutenant Governor Murray, Mayor Balzotti, Superintendent Matthew Malone, Bill Carpenter and the North River Collaborative for helping make Independence Academy possible.”

Recovery schools offer a comprehensive academic curriculum that is consistent with Massachusetts state standards, MCAS testing protocols and course requirements for their respective home school districts. Each school has the capacity to serve approximately 30-50 students. To ensure greater flexibility for students to attend recovery schools, Lieutenant Governor Murray advocated for legislation to incentivize schools outside of the district or collaborative area where the school is located to fund students to attend a recovery high school, which was included in the FY 2011 budget signed by Governor Patrick.

“Recovery Schools have become an important component of the continuum of care for young people struggling with substance abuse,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach. “Support for these schools is allowing students to live healthier lives and work at pursuing their dreams.”

Independence Academy will be run under the auspices of the North River Collaborative, an educational organization that provides comprehensive services to students from its eight member school districts (Abington, Avon, Bridgewater-Raynham, East Bridgewater, Hanover, Rockland, West Bridgewater and Whitman-Hanson). The school will serve as many as 50 South Shore and Cape Cod students, ages 14- to 21-years-old, who have completed substance abuse treatment and are looking for a supportive environment in which to attain their high school diploma. The school will be funded with $500,000 per year in Massachusetts Department of Public Health grants and with tuitions from the students' school districts. 

Lieutenant Governor Murray was joined by Brockton Mayor Linda Balzotti, the North River Collaborative and representatives of the Brockton Public School system at the event.

“Independence Academy will provide a vital service for adolescents who are overcoming their addictions by allowing them to continue their education in a supportive environment,” said Brockton Public Schools Superintendent Matthew H. Malone, Ph.D. “The school is the result of the dedication of a coalition of school leaders, service providers, legislators and parents – from urban and suburban communities across Southeastern Massachusetts – who recognized the need for this program and fought to give students in a recovery a school where they could succeed.”

“This program fills a critical gap in services for students struggling with substance abuse in Southeastern Massachusetts," said Joanne Haley Sullivan, executive director of the North River Collaborative. "Schools have found that when students return to their high schools after substance abuse treatment, they often find themselves back in their peer groups where their ability to maintain their sobriety is comprised. Independence Academy will help overcome that by bringing students together with peers that are all committed to the same goal of sobriety and in an environment that is supporting their education.” 

“Independence Academy is an important piece of the recovery process focused on a most unique student population: those who are re-entering school life after struggling with addiction," said Senator Thomas Kennedy. "Brockton area students deserve this help and support as they work to improve their future, and I’m pleased to see this option for Southeastern Massachusetts.”  

“This new institution will give many students who never had the resources to cope with their addiction a chance to improve their health while simultaneously furthering their education and I applaud the staff and administrators at Independence Academy, as well as the Patrick-Murray administration for all of their hard work,” said Representative Alice Peisch. 

“I would like to thank the Patrick-Murray administration and the Department of Public Health for funding this educational initiative that addresses a need felt throughout Brockton and Southeastern Massachusetts,” said Representative Michael Brady.

“Independence Academy started as a dream in the hearts and souls of some brave parents,” said Representative Christine Canavan. “Now, their commitment has made that dream a reality.”

“I visited the recovery school in Beverly with Bill Carpenter,” said Representative Geraldine Creedon. ”I was very impressed with the program and I truly feel this is the best environment for these students.”

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