By Meghin Delaney
Khara Greenwell knows from her drug treatment program that there are three mainstays in the lives of those dealing with addiction: jails, institutions and death.
At 16, she’s seen two of the three.
“I knew death was next,” she said of her decision to shake her addiction to mind-altering substances and earn a high school diploma at the same time.
Khara is one of 21 students fighting for their futures at Mission High School, the Clark County School District’s new program for students struggling with addiction. The school opened Aug. 21 — a week after the start of the traditional school year — with six students, Principal Barbara Collins said, but it has grown rapidly since then as a result of referrals from other schools and the juvenile justice system.
The so-called recovery high school, on the site of the former Biltmore Continuation High School, is a first for Clark County. But it’s part of a national movement that began in the mid-1980s and has accelerated amid soaring overdose deaths associated with the opioid epidemic.
Clark County’s experiment has a relatively new wrinkle: Research shows most recovery programs are operated as small units within a traditional high school, rather than as a stand-alone school like Mission.
Khara’s story is similar in many respects to those of her fellow students, whose addictions include alcohol and drugs ranging from marijuana to heroin.
She said she was 12 when she was introduced to illegal substances by her mother. She eventually stopped going to school and instead spent time in juvenile detention and two rehab facilities. Now, though she’s old enough to be a junior, she’s attending high school for the first time.
“This is my second shot,” she said Thursday in the schoolyard.