WV Teen Recovery School

By Ken Walker

by Danielle Dolin

While an opening date isn’t set, an Assembly of God church in West Virginia has offered its community center as a home for the state’s first high school designed to help students with recovery from addictions.

“We said we’d give them the space free,” said Chris Kimbro, lead pastor of King’s River Worship Center in St. Albans, a suburb of the state capital of Charleston. “If somebody would put money into it, it would blow up. It’s needed.”

Once open, Bridge to Hope Academy will join more than 40 other schools around the nation devoted to helping teens in recovery. It will be based at Community Bridge, a ministry of King’s River.

Starting initially as an outreach to foster families, Community Bridge encompasses an 8,000-square-foot distribution center that dispenses food, clothing, household goods and other forms of assistance. Housed separately from the church, it also offers cooking classes and recovery groups for people struggling with addiction.

After its launch in early 2021, the outreach grew until it incorporated last September as a 501-c-3 nonprofit. More than 40 churches are among 190-plus partnering organizations. Community Bridge helped more than 6,100 people in 2023.

After learning last year about efforts to establish a recovery school, led by Tina Ramirez—director of an addiction care program at the Marshall University medical school—Kimbro said the academy could meet at their building.

“We want to be part of the answer,” Kimbro said. “If we don’t come together to bridge the gaps, nothing’s going to change. If students have a substance abuse issue, they come out of recovery and go back to the same setting and they can’t make it. Schools are not equipped to provide the wraparound services to help them succeed.”

Most recovery schools struggle to find a location, said Ramirez, part of an eight-member contingent that visited a similar initiative recently in North Carolina. Community Bridge offering space has removed that obstacle, she said.

“Everything is in place at the facility to launch the school as soon as funding comes so we can hire a director,” Ramirez said. “The ultimate goal will be for students to graduate with a diploma through the academy.”

Part of the program will include individual, group and family therapy on site.

According to Ramirez, the need for such a school is great. Based on data from West Virginia Health and Human Services, she identified 1,500 overdoses among teens under 18 from 2018-23.

However, Ramirez said there are many more who are administered drug antidote Narcan in a local setting and never show up in official records.

The effort has drawn significant attention, including a recent tour of the facility by Carol Miller, Republican representative for the state’s first congressional district.

“I am excited to see the great impact Bridge to Hope Academy will have on educating students and supporting them during their journey to recovery,” Miller said in a statement afterwards. “I have no doubt this (school) will provide a strong foundation for students and their future success.”

Association of recovery schools lists 42 high schools designed for students in recovery in the U.S.: https://recoveryschools.org/find-a-school/

Ken Walker is a veteran freelance writer and book editor from Huntington, West Virginia. A contributor to numerous national publications and news services during his career, he has more than 4,600 article bylines and has worked on more than 90 books.

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