In a study of Oregon’s substance abuse disorder services conducted by the OHSU Department of Public Health in September 2021 – September 2022, Oregon ranked 48th out of 50 states for teens per capita needing but not receiving access to drug treatment services. Concordia’s newest neighbor, Rivercrest Academy, hopes to be one part of the solution.
Principal Todd Nicholson worked with a real estate agent to search the city for an ideal location for the school, somewhere close to existing Portland Public schools that East County partners could access. He was excited to find the site they did and to be in the Concordia neighborhood. Rivercrest Academy opened its doors to students this fall, but is located currently at Leaven Community Center, while waiting for its permanent location on NE 30th and Ainsworth to be finished.
Nicholson says, “Nearby neighbors, including KISS Coffee and Ainsworth United Church of Christ, have been wonderful and embracing.” KISS Coffee co-owner Sarah Pearson adds, “We are excited about the growth and all the new educational facilities in the neighborhood.”
Rivercrest Academy currently hosts 15 high school students who have committed to abstinence from drugs and alcohol and to their education. These students are served by two full-time teachers, three recovery faculty and one school psychologist. Soon, there will also be a special education teacher on site. The current staff could, in the future, serve up to 30 students.
The recovery high school was developed through the Multnomah Educational Service District (MESD), which serves eight school districts in Multnomah County. Its creation was aided by an advisory committee made up of local nonprofits and schools.
Data collected by Vanderbilt University shows that 70% of students who return to a previous school environment relapse within weeks of treatment, compared to 70% of youth who are clean and sober one year after enrolling in a recovery high school.
Before Rivercrest Academy opened its doors, there was only one recovery high school for teens in the state of Oregon. There are currently zero in-patient locations for adolescent drug treatment in Oregon, and teens wanting that option need to travel out of state to Washington or California.
House Bill 2767, which was recently passed by the Oregon Legislature and signed by Governor Tina Kotek, is an attempt to address the gap for youth by supporting more treatment options. Rivercrest Academy will eventually receive some of its funding from the state.
Rivercrest Academy will partner closely with the Oregon Department of Human Services and Portland Public Schools (PPS) Drug and Alcohol Program and is in conversation with the University of Oregon about how the two schools can support each other.
If neighbors have questions or want more information about recovery programs, they can email Principal Nicholson directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jordana Leeb is a longtime Concordia resident who is passionate about the neighborhood, its residents and trees. She lives with her partner and dog on a street she calls home. You can see a film about her street and Concordia at TinyURL.com/Diaryofastreet.