Michigan's first public recovery high school opens for teens with addiction

Michigan's first public recovery high school opens for teens with addiction (Credit: Wellspring Lutheran Services)

MOUNT MORRIS TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Wellspring Lutheran Services is opening Michigan's first public recovery high school.

The school is for teens who are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction.

The plan is to open doors in January 2021.

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Right now, the closest recovery high school is in Columbus, Ohio or Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Michigan Department of Education says about 2,000 students in southeast Michigan, leave or are kicked out of school for drug and alcohol use.

"We know that with recovery services wrapped around that academic experience for youth, we know we can take the rate of relapse for these kids from over 70% to about 30% and that is huge, that’s a game changer, that’s a life changer," said David Gehm, CEO/President of Wellspring Lutheran Services.

Here are some statistics:

  • 70% of students relapse in 6 months or less upon returning to their original school
  • 90% of adult addicts started using drugs in high school
  • In 2018 there were 2,599 substance-related deaths in Michigan
  • In 2018, nearly 70% of overdose deaths were opioid overdoses in the United States

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The school will be on Wellspring's Farmington Hills campus, but it is open to students from across the state.

The 80-acre campus includes a library, computer lab, gymnasium, weight room, dining hall, auditorium, art studio, ball fields and a running track.

The campus has the capacity to serve up to 120 students, grades 9-12.

Gehm says the goal is for students to maintain sobriety and earn a high school diploma.

According to Wellspring Lutheran Services, the Recovery High School model made it's first appearance in the late 1970's.

There are still fewer than 40 recovery high schools in the United States, according to the National Association of Recovery Schools.

Recovery schools help students find their way to recovery by:

  • Providing smaller classrooms with instructors who build and reinforce a recovery-oriented culture.
  • Customizing workloads to respond to the academic challenges that are common among recovering students.
  • Providing a range of recovery-enabling enrichment activities, such as daily meetings with recovery counselors, onsite 12-step meetings and available peer supports.
  • Creating a welcoming environment where students are encouraged to be open about relapse (when it occurs) rather than hiding from it.

Gehm tells Mid-Michigan NOW, the long term goal is to stabilize the program in Farmington Hills to then be able to recreate it in other areas of the state.

There is an academic component to the school and an equally important or in some circumstances even more important, recovery component to the school. We are not worried about fielding football teams and having debate club, everything is focused on that recovery and there is best practice and good science behind the techniques we will use.

The school will be a free standing charter school supported by Michigan International Prep School.

Due to COVID-19, the school will open utilizing virtual services. Gehm says academics will be online with students still visiting campus multiple times a week for recovery services.

For information on how to enroll in the school visit