The effects of drugs and alcohol addiction are felt nationwide on a daily basis.
In 2016, the National Center for Health Statistics reported more than 63,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates 88,000 die annually from alcohol-related causes.
Addiction doesn’t discriminate; it affects all walks of life regardless of age, race or gender. This includes teenagers, a trend that has spawned more programs and resources like Teen Recovery Solutions in Oklahoma City to help fight the widespread problem.
“The availability of drugs, a lot of the emotional trauma these kids have dealt with in their homes and many of families are dealing with social and mental health issues and split families; the self-medication you see with teens emerges earlier and can spiral out of control a lot quicker than maybe back when I was out there living a crazy life,” said Andrew Rice, executive director at Teen Recovery Solutions who battled addiction during his college years.
Teen Recovery Solutions provides long-term addiction recovery tools — including Mission Academy, the only recovery high school in Oklahoma — for OKC teenagers and families. These resources come with costs, and fundraising is paramount. Teen Recovery Solutions will host its second annual Run for Recovery Feb. 17 at Lake Hefner’s Bert Cooper Trails to raise awareness for teenagers and families in the community.
Rice, who grew up in Oklahoma and spent almost eight years working as a state senator, admitted he wasn’t familiar with Teen Recovery Solutions prior to his exposure four years ago.
He’s not alone.
And that’s where fundraising events like Run for Recovery come into play. The race debuted in 2017 with about 300 participants, a number Rice hopes to grow.
“It gets our name out there a little more,” Rice said. “Maybe there is a teen struggling and someone’s friend finds out about us and they Google us. We have kids who come our way that way.”
This year, entry fees include $25 for the 5K and $30 for the 10K. Teen Recovery Solutions is providing incentives with a campfire mug for the first 300 runners who register and medals for the top three male and female participants in each race.
Money raised helps supplement tuition at Mission Academy.
“Because we are a private school and because we are heavily resourced with mental health services and a lot of staff, most families, an overwhelming majority, can’t afford our full tuition, so we provide our own generous scholarships at different levels,” Rice said.
The success of Teen Recovery Solutions, a two-pronged approach that started in 2000, led to the opening of Mission Academy in 2006. By 2012, Mission Peer Group was added for nights and weekends to provide additional social and group support. Tuition for the Oklahoma-accredited school is bundled with Mission Peer Group, so money raised from Run for Recovery helps support sober events that include things like laser tag or bowling.
Rice said Mission Academy currently has 12 students, although enrollment typically fluctuates between nine and 13.
“Part of why we’re small is we don’t take teens that are forced to come to us by the court or their parents,” he said. “You have to earn your way in. We want to see a month of sobriety and a willingness that the kid wants to change.”
Typically, Teen Recovery Solutions serves ages 17 to 19. More recently, Rice said freshmen and sophomores have enrolled in the program. Addiction is affecting teens at such a young age, resulting in more states implementing recovery high schools.
“That’s sort of the model coming from in-patient rehabs and educators who specialized, saying that having a unique educational environment committed around sobriety for teens can be a lot more helpful and sustaining,” Rice said.
Small enrollment size allows for more hands-on approach at Mission Academy. But it doesn’t mean the costs aren’t small.
Rice said recovery methods can’t be done “on the cheap” because of behavioral issues that require the use of extensive resources.
“It works, but it takes a lot of staff and being really involved with their lives,” he said. “It’s like we’re one really big family where we know everything about each other. There are no secrets at our school.”
Rice called his staff a tight-knit community due to their own backgrounds with recovery or a family member or friend that has gotten caught up with drugs or alcohol.
Personal connections have strengthened a donor base to allow Teen Recovery Solutions to run effectively.
“It’s a model that can be effective that communities really have to rally around doing it,” Rice said. “It’s a heavy lift.”
Rice first heard about Teen Recovery Solutions through some friends before attending a lunch-and-learn community session. His hope is events like Run for Recovery can further efforts toward fighting addiction.
“This is a place for you to affirm yourself in a healthy way of sobriety. We’re not asking anyone to change who they are,” he said. “It’s a pretty progressive environment. That’s really where the magic happens is for them to realize, ‘Wow! Maybe my life isn’t over and I’m not the piece of garbage I think I am.’”
Run for Recovery
9 a.m.-noon Feb. 17
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S. Lake Hefner Drive
Print headline: Forward movement; Teen Recovery Solutions hosts its second Run for Recovery to raise funds and awareness for its addiction programs.