Waite Park sober school seeks funds from Legislature

Published 10:01 am Tuesday, March 21, 2017

WAITE PARK, Minn.  — Leaders of a new Minnesota school that helps students struggling with alcohol abuse are asking lawmakers for funding.

Seven students have been treated so far at the McKinley Recovery School, which is in its first year in Waite Park, the St. Cloud Times  reported. It is one of only six so-called sober schools in Minnesota.

School leaders say that despite the program’s infancy, it’s proving effective. McKinley Area Learning Center Principal Al Johnson testified before the Minnesota House Education Finance Committee last month to support funding for the school.

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Multiple proposals in the state Legislature would fund recovery schools in fiscal years 2018 and 2019. A bill written by five legislators would provide funding and allow for some of the money to be used to transport students to the program.

One mother whose 17-year-old son went to the school said he turned to alcohol to cope with autism and mental health issues, such as anxiety and bipolar disorder.

“He has a hard time regulating that with medication, so the alcohol kind of calms the brain down,” said the mother, whose first name is Jenny but asked that her full name not be used to protect the identity of her son.

She said her son was hesitant to go to the recovery school because it was outside his comfort zone and there was a stigma associated with going to school at the alternative learning center. But soon, she said, he started going without hesitation and ended up enjoying it.