NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. -- A ribbon cutting was held Monday for Victory High School, what officials say is the first recovery high school in Tampa Bay.
What You Need To Know
- Officials say Victory High School will be first recovery high school in Tampa Bay, second in state
- School will provide mental health resources and recovery support in addition to academics
- Classes could begin by end of January
- LEARN MORE: Florida Recovery Schools of Tampa Bay
“I feel like I can finally exhale. I’m so excited just to have so much support and so many people that came together and celebrate that this is really going to happen. We’re going to save lives and give people hope," said Tina Levene, the founder and executive director of Florida Recovery Schools of Tampa Bay.
Based out of Calvary Chapel Worship Center, Victory will serve students between the ages of 14-19 who are struggling with substance abuse or a co-occurring disorder diagnosis. While it will have the ability to enroll a maximum of 50 students, officials said the program will likely start out smaller.
“We’re a healing-centered environment for our young people. So, they’re going to feel safe. They’re also going to receive mental health services, recovery support, and an education," said Levene. “They go back to a traditional school, they’re with their old friends, doing the same old stuff. Relapse happens a lot during that time. So, this is an opportunity for them to have hope and healing.”
The ribbon cutting ceremony is underway for Victory High School in #PascoCounty. It’s going to be #TampaBay’s first recovery high school and will serve a maximum of 50 14-19-year-olds on their path to beating substance abuse and related issues. @BN9 #bn9covid19 pic.twitter.com/BKyau37ETb— Sarah Blazonis (@SarahBlazonis) January 4, 2021
“I wish that I could’ve gotten it in high school, but that wasn’t my journey," said State Sen. Darryl Rouson.
Rouson told those gathered that as of the day of the ribbon cutting, he had been in recovery for 22 years, nine months, and 18 days.
"This opportunity that’s being afforded these children is one of the greatest opportunities we can give them, and that’s the chance to live -- a chance to live a sober and addiction-free lifestyle," Rouson said.
Pasco County Sheriff's Office Capt. Toni Roach said there's a need for such services in the county. She said there were 1,400 overdoses in the county in 2020. Twenty-two of those were juvenile cases, and three of those were fatal.
“Having this program here I think will be really helpful in our community, and I’m very proud and hopeful that such an amazing resource is going to be centered here in Pasco County," said Capt. Roach, leader of the sheriff's office's Behavioral Health Intervention Team.
Levene said classes could begin at Victory as soon as the end of this month. She said they're in the process of finalizing liability insurance and awaiting approval from the Florida Dept. of Education to operate as a private school. The school will also be a non-profit, and board members said it will need support from the community to fulfill its mission. To find out how to donate or learn more about the school, visit: http://floridarecoveryschoolsoftampabay.com/