Committed To Creating New York City's
First Sober Public High School.


The Need

“Addiction to Drugs, Alcohol & Tobacco are the most Common
Mental Health Problems in Teens.”

National Council on Addiction and Drug Dependency (NCADD)


The stats don’t lie.

The epidemic of Addiction is out of control in this country, but it’s exploding in our kids.

According to the US Government and Columbia University, 1 out of every 5 Teenagers in the US meet the medical criteria for Addiction. This means 1 out of every 5 Teens today is an addict.


If a Teen is lucky enough to be sent to rehab (1 out of 70) and they’re then sent to a regular high school, 90% of them relapse.

80% in the 1st 30 days.


If a Teen is sent to a recovery-based high school, not only is there a 90% attendance rate … but 70% of them graduate CLEAN AND SOBER.


Dillon Eaton at the SLAM Benefit in February 2013.

Dillon Eaton at the SLAM Benefit in February 2013.


“If I hadn’t gone to a recovery high school, I’d be dead.”

— Dillon Eaton, a 2009 graduate of The North Shore Recovery High School, Beverly, MA


“SLAM has to succeed.  Without it, hundreds of NYC kids will be incarcerated – or die.  My son nearly died of his addiction, which began in high school.  I WISH I’d found a school like SLAM when he was a Teen.  Instead, he went from rehab to rehab,
relapse to relapse, ER to ER.  

Tragically, there’s no such school in New York City.  What SLAM is doing can help countless numbers of children grow up to productive and fulfilling lives.”

David Sheff, NY Times Best-selling Author of ‘Beautiful Boy’ & ‘Clean’

“It is essential to begin to address the disease of substance abuse as early as possible. At 20, 25 years old … it’s too late. Not for sobriety, of course. But too late to stop the terrible negative toll Addiction will take on their lives, and ours, for years to come.”

Dr. Scott Beinenfield, NYC Addiction Psychiatrist

Drug use among Teens is a national health crisis. 9 out of every 10 chemically dependent Americans started smoking, drinking or drugging before age 18.

Half of all High School students currently use addictive substances.

That’s 6.1 MILLION kids.

National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University


The School


We at SLAM believe that New York City deserves to have a school entirely dedicated to teens that are in need of a recovery-centric environment free of all drugs and alcohol. We believe not only in excellence in curriculum, but also in helping teens learn the crucial life skills needed in order to thrive for the rest of their lives. [peekaboo_content name="how"]The school should also provide a top-notch education to any teen, regardless of their ability to pay. This should be a public high school with a percentage of the cost of creation funded by donations raised by our board and other resources. Patterned after the highly-effective admissions criteria of Recovery High Schools around the country, including North Shore Recovery High School in Massachusetts-one of the most successful schools in the nation -our basic tenant follows theirs: any teen seeking a sober education must be willing to adhere to an individualized recovery plan. Also to be considered is the ability of staff to meet the educational/social/emotional needs of the student (as determined by a team meeting with district special education staff, student and parent/guardian). Policies regarding abstinence/relapse are based on the individual needs of the student and family. Children who struggle with substance use dependence/abuse benefit by being a part of a recovery community. Whether or not the student is able to abstain for long periods of time from drugs and/or alcohol significantly depends on social networks and the support in place at home. Attending a Recovery High School exposes students to adolescent (and eventually adult) recovery, while teaching accountability for self and others, respect and honesty. The family is actively involved in the process of their child’s recovery. Studies have shown the interdependence of academic performance and substance use. The more the student uses illicit substances, the lower their school performance and connectedness to positive role models. Using the model of restorative practices, coupled with mandatory drug testing, paints a clear picture of the effects of the child’s drug and/or alcohol use on academic achievement. Having access to this information helps the child and family see the direct effects of substance use/abuse/dependence and helps them understand the need to get and remain sober. [/peekaboo_content][peekaboo name "how"]



The Recovery High School catalyzed by SLAM will meet the needs of adolescents who are battling drug, alcohol and other addictive disorders, and are at a stage in their recovery where they are committed to staying clean and sober while attending and completing high school. [peekaboo_content name="strategy"]These students will have completed either a residential addiction treatment program or outpatient program, or will have established the ability to sustain sobriety for a period of time. Traditionally, following treatment, many adolescents return to their home communities and are expected to return to school. In most cases, the expectation is that a student returning from an addiction treatment facility is supposed to focus not only on sobriety but also on school. At school, surrounded by relapse-inducing triggers such as drug-using peers and familiar drug-using social arenas, most students succumb to the temptations surrounding them.[/peekaboo_content][peekaboo name "strategy"]



There are many pathways by which students and families will find their way to Recovery High School, and referrals will emanate from a wide range of agencies, professionals and counselors both locally and nationally. The behaviors associated with the adolescent’s drug use often determine their entry point into the system. [peekaboo_content name="admissions"]Below are a number of ways in which various agencies and entities will interact with Recovery High School in New York City:

Drug courts, diversion programs, attorneys, district attorneys and parole boards/officers will be viable referral sources for Recovery High School. Likewise, attorneys and district attorneys may refer teens to Recovery High School as part of case-related conditions.

A large percentage of adolescent drug and alcohol abusers also suffer from co-occurring psychiatric problems and initially engage in treatment at the level of psychiatric hospitals, outpatient clinics or day treatment programs. Hence, psychiatric clinics, both city and statewide, will serve as rich referral sources for children identified as facing both psychiatric as well as drug-related problems. Generally, only students whose psychiatric disorders are stabilized would be appropriate for referral to Recovery High School.

Students struggling with abuse issues, who are enrolled in public or private schools, are often identified by teachers, guidance counselors, or coaches as unable to continue receiving an education in their home environment. Thus, Recovery High School will be a useful referral resource for schools across New York City so their students can continue receiving an education within a sober and safe environment.

Community adolescent substance abuse treatment facilities (residential, outpatient, after school) are often involved in making education-related recommendations for adolescents who are struggling in school due to substance abuse. These programs will be a major referral source for Recovery High School.

Many adolescents receiving treatment from addiction social workers, therapists and physicians will be referred to Recovery High School as part of their treatment plans.
Finally, SLAM will engage in high-level community outreach to educate and maintain close relationships with the public and appropriate agencies to sustain referrals and facilitate student admission. The programming will reach the following:

• In-patient and out-patient substance abuse treatment programs

• Community hotlines

• Adolescent psychiatric in-patient and out-patient units

• Criminal justice system, drug courts, diversion programs (i.e. TASC)

• Public school system and private school networks and organizations

• Community caregivers, i.e. physicians; social workers and therapists

• Parent organizations, family support networks

• Local media partnerships and other venues

• Word-of-mouth referrals [/peekaboo_content] [peekaboo name="admissions"]



A specific number of continuous days of sobriety will be designated and required before a student can submit their application. A typical application package would require the following:[peekaboo_content name="criteria"]

• Completion of a referral form

• The Sobriety/Enrollment Contract signed by the applicant

• The Releases of Information signed by the applicant and family for the most recent treatment center attended, caregiver, and home school

• A minimum one-page essay by the applicant discussing his/her chemical use history, consequences, educational goals and reasons for wishing to attend Recovery High School

• Submission of written notification to the home school by the applicant and family/guardian of intent to enroll in Recovery High School

The school will consider for admission, on a rolling basis, Grades 9-12 applicants who struggle with substance abuse and other co-occurring issues who desire a recovery-focused education to maintain sobriety and achieve his/her academic, vocational and social/interpersonal goals. Some potential students may not be suitable for admission due to criminal findings or other behaviors considered dangerous or deleterious to the school community, such as arson or sexual perpetration. Though a potential student may have displayed some of these behaviors in the past, all applicants will have a careful review of their individual circumstances including recent history, current assessments, motivation and other factors. With the application processes complete, the applicant and family or guardians are contacted to schedule an interview. A team, including staff members on both the academic and social/therapeutic teams, will generally conduct the interview. Frequently, information requested for submission at the interview stage could include the following: • Credit update and transcript from the home school •Standard testing scores •Current IEP and ARS, if applicable[/peekaboo_content] [peekaboo name="criteria"]



I. Preliminary Budget and Private Support

Part of the mission of SLAM is to provide support and quality professional assistance towards the creation and maintenance of a New York City Recovery High School. To date, SLAM has functioned exclusively on the individual contributions of board members and deeply interested individuals. Although, we are still in the planning phase, SLAM is confident it can raise funds and attract philanthropic assignments to fund the education and addiction experts and the full-time staff needed in a short amount of time.

How much will a recovery school cost annually?

Below outlines a preliminary estimated budget citing the cost for an annual budget for one school with 50-60 students, but is scalable.




A master schedule from the North Shore Recovery High School in Beverly, Massachusetts, can be provided as benchmarking from a successful school. Additionally, the community of Recovery High School administrators, educators and Board members are eager to support the creation of new schools and have offered to make themselves available for more detailed questions and, in some cases, to travel to NYC to support our efforts. [peekaboo_content name="curriculum"]Michelle Lipinski of the North Shore Recovery School has shared with us an outline of how NSRH meets various educational demands; we recognize the efficacy of this outline and are citing this as an example. During the past five years, the North Shore Recovery High School has aligned all curriculum and assessments to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Frameworks. During this time, staff at NSRHS has also aligned their mission and curricula to reflect the Coalition of Essential Schools Principles. Using the existing curriculum framework and adding the CES Principles has allowed the staff to meet the diverse academic needs of the population. The CES Principles reflect the need for high-quality education standards in a community based on self and peer accountability. These Principles include:

1. Learning to use one’s mind well: The school should focus on helping young people learn to use their minds well.

2. Less is more, depth over coverage: The school’s goal should be simple: for each student to master a limited number of essential skills and areas of knowledge.

3. Goals apply to all students: The school’s goals should apply to all students, while the means to these goals will vary as those students themselves vary. School practice should be tailor-made to meet the needs of every group or class of students.

4. Personalization: Teaching and learning should be personalized to the maximum feasible extent. To capitalize on this personalization, decisions about the details of the course of study, the use of students’ and teachers’ time and the choice of teaching materials and specific pedagogies must be unreservedly placed in the hands of the principal and staff.

5. Student-as-worker, teacher-as-coach: The governing practical metaphor of the school should be student-as-worker, rather than the more familiar metaphor of teacher-as-deliverer-of-instructional-services. Accordingly, a prominent pedagogical approach will be coaching, to provoke students to learn how to learn and thus to teach themselves.

6. Demonstration of Mastery: Teaching and learning should be documented and assessed with tools based on a student’s performance of real tasks. Students not yet at appropriate levels of competence should be provided intensive support and resources to assist them quickly to meet those standards.

7. A tone of decency and trust: The tone of the school should explicitly and self-consciously stress values of realistic expectation (“I won’t threaten you, but I will expect much of you”), of trust (until abused) and of decency (the values of fairness, generosity and tolerance). Incentives appropriate to the school’s particular students and teachers should be emphasized. Parents should be key collaborators and vital members of the school community.

8. Commitment to the entire school: The principal and teachers should perceive themselves as generalists first (teachers and scholars in general education) and specialists second (experts in only one particular discipline).

9. Resources will be dedicated to teaching and learning.[/peekaboo_content] [peekaboo name="curriculum"]



Through our discussions with other Recovery High Schools, we have learned that a community of 50-60 students may be optimal for success. A Recovery High School with 50 students requires, at minimum, five teachers including a special education teacher. The school can function without an assistant principal, but a part-time guidance counselor is needed to provide college advisement. update transcripts, schedule mandated exams, and prepare students’ transcripts for diploma certification. Two full-time social workers or substance-abuse counselors are needed to provide daily group and frequent individual counseling to students and their families. The two school aides are required to provide off-site food service and office support.



Site Requirements:

The Board of SLAM has explored various opportunities for space regardless of whether the school was private, public or charter. We believe that the school should occupy a whole medium-sized building similar in size to the Harvey Milk School.   Following is a preliminary perspective on the minimum space requirement:[peekaboo_content name="site"]

4    Private offices: principal and counseling staff

1    ATS/HSST/student records and attendance office 1 Conference room/larger group student meetings

1    Reception area w/ secretary and receptionist desks

6    Classrooms each with Internet access and (4) SMARTBoards

1    Multipurpose/cafeteria/whole school gathering area

2    Staff bathrooms (male and female)

2    Student bathrooms (male and female)

1    Guidance office

1   A music room equipped with digital audio studio and used as a classroom

1   Full gymnasium for students to play basketball and other sports on a daily basis 11[/peekaboo_content] [peekaboo name="site"]


The Team

Who We Are

For NYC Teens – who statistically are WELL ABOVE the national average for suffering drug and alcohol abuse – the problem is especially urgent.

OASAS estimates that statewide, almost 160,000 Teens ages 12-17 have a substance abuse problem.

When adolescents engage in risky behaviors prior to the age of 21, they are FIVE times more likely to develop long-term abuse dependence.



Kristen talks with Anderson Cooper about SLAM

Published on Mar 28, 2012 SLAM (sobriety, learning and motivation) is a organization actress Kristen Johnston started five years ago, which assists New York City’s youth in recovery. Today, there are 30 flourishing in high schools across the U.S. Go to to learn more.

Kristen in The Anonymous People

See Kristen Johnston LIVE on Tuesday night at the NYC premiere of the brand new feature documentary, The Anonymous People! Get your tickets NOW: Facebook Event Link:

‘Turning Addiction into a Sideshow’ an article for The NY Times written by Kristen Johnston

Turning Addiction Into a Sideshow By KRISTEN JOHNSTON Published: July 19, 2013 “Kristen Johnston admits to being a total drug addict and alcoholic for years!” After 20 years of being a famous person, I’m happy to say I have pretty thick skin when it comes to press. However, when I saw that headline, which ran recently […]

“I don’t mind the swearing – we have bigger issues.

Their tattoos, their piercings, their rainbow hair…

don’t bother me at all.

Their scars are what’s important.

They live their lives with burdens heavier than the ones I’ve ever carried.

So my job is not about ‘vocabulary’ or ‘reading the classics’.

It’s not about diagramming sentences.

It’s about them finding the right words to let the rest of us know that …

they are here.

Among us.

Parts of us.

Gritty, courageous, outspoken, tender foul-mouthed angels …

tattooed with their mother’s names, their rosaries, their hometowns –

as if to say

‘Here, I am. Don’t forget me.’”

A poem by an English Teacher at North Shore Recovery High School, Beverly, Mass

Get in Touch

Contact Us

Send a Message