COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A local woman wants to make sure students who are addicted to drugs and alcohol recover and get their high school diploma. She's behind a new high school that will open soon in Colorado Springs.
"Resources for addiction are horrid, horrendous...families are spending thousands of dollars getting help for their student, and then they go back into high school and then two weeks later they're relapsing," said Leslie Patterson, the program director of Landmark Community School.
We've told you before about the drug epidemic in our community.
"I think heroin right now has overtaken the nation. Colorado Springs unfortunately is not immune to the heroin epidemic," Colorado Springs Police Commander Sean Mandel told us in the past.
Patterson said the idea came to her while watching documentary "The Anonymous People." The movie had a snippet on recovery high schools in Massachusetts.
Patterson got to thinking: why not in Colorado?
"We have a lot of youth that suffer from addiction. And it's not even just addiction, it's that they're using drugs and alcohol to cover up whatever it is that they're not wanting to feel and experience, so providing them alternative interventions so they don't have to become full-blown addicts, or if they are into their own addiction, then giving them some tools to work with that.
"High school, that's where a lot of students are hooking up with their friends, are in their community and getting whatever it is that they're looking for. So when you can provide them a safe environment where they have peers -- which is really the name of what these students want. They want peers."
The hope is students will thrive at the Landmark Community School. It will be run under the umbrella of Community Prep School in District 11. It's located in the former school at Immanuel Lutheran Church off Pikes Peak and Institute, east of downtown Colorado Springs.
"We're going to start with upwards of 20 students in this first semester, and our first day will be January 30th," said Martin Schneider, director of Community Prep School.
Over the next five years, they hope to grow to 100 students.
The school will be a typical high school, with daytime school hours and students between the ages of 14-19. Students will get a high school diploma through Community Prep. They'll have to earn credits to get that diploma.
"When there are cracks in that support system or there's no support system at all, the relapse rate is close to 90 percent, so kids going back to their old high schools, for instance, after going to treatment, have really, really struggled to maintain sobriety," said Schneider.
"This isn't a district problem, this is a community problem," said Patterson.
"So we're coming at it from all different angles, it's not just in the schools, we've got therapists, we've got outdoor education, all different kind of community support."
Patterson spearheaded the effort -- it's a mission close to her heart.
"I'm in long-term recovery myself and my addiction started in high school so it's a full circle for me to do this also," Patterson added.
It will be a safe haven for students.
"The need is huge," Schneider added. "And growing."
"If you can get a student sober at 15, the trajectory has changed for that child," Patterson said.
Volunteers will be cleaning up the school this weekend. If you want to help out, you can call the school at 719-227-8836.