Wellspring to Open Michigan's First Recovery High School in Farmington Hills for Teens Struggling With Addiction

Wellspring Academy will provide a safe, sober and supportive academic environment where students can achieve their highest level of educational success and personal recovery.

Wellspring Academy logo

Wellspring Lutheran Services will launch Michigan's first public recovery high school in January 2021. Wellspring Academy will support teens who have struggled with drugs and alcohol maintain sobriety as they complete high school and earn their diploma.

"Students who have made a commitment to sobriety, and have begun the tough journey of recovery, don't stand a chance if they're forced back to their school of origin simply because they don't have a choice. In fact, we know that 70% of those students will relapse within six months," says Wellspring president and CEO David Gehm in making the announcement. "Our commitment to launch Wellspring Academy comes from knowing that we must do better for them and is consistent with Wellspring's longstanding focus on serving those in our communities whose needs are not being met. At Wellspring Academy, students will find a place where they can find and fulfill their purpose, with a community who will love and support them every step of the way," says Gehm. 

Despite Michigan's disproportionately high rates of teen drug and alcohol use, the nearest recovery high school is currently located in Columbus, Ohio. The Michigan Dept. of Education estimates each year nearly 2,000 students in southeast Michigan alone leave or are kicked out of school for drug and or alcohol use. Wellspring Academy will have the capacity to serve up to 120 high school students (grade 9-12), from southeast Michigan and surrounding areas at its 80-acre campus in Farmington Hills.

"The need is great and the time is now," says Sean de Four, chief operating officer for Wellspring. "We don't have the luxury of hoping that this drug epidemic will sort itself out. Kids are dying; overdose rates are at an all-time high, and we have a team of experts with lived experience who want to step in and help change the trajectory for students and families in Michigan."

The Recovery High School model made its first appearance in the late 1970s. Since that time, there are still fewer than 40 recovery high schools in the U.S., according to the National Association of Recovery Schools. Recovery schools are not a substitute for substance use treatment. These schools help students find their way to recovery by:

  • Providing smaller classrooms with instructors who build and reinforce a recovery-oriented culture;
  • Customizing workloads to respond to the academic challenges that are common among recovering students;
  • Providing a range of recovery-enabling enrichment activities, such as daily meetings with recovery counselors, on-site 12-step meetings and available peer supports; and
  • Creating a welcoming environment where students are encouraged to be open about relapse (when it occurs) rather than hiding it.

De Four says Wellspring's recovery high school will be a powerful collaboration of committed partners who want more for Michigan's youth in recovery. "We are grateful for the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and donors who have already come forward to help us launch Wellspring Academy," says de Four, "We couldn't do this important work without strong community partners who believe in this mission as much as we do."

The recovery high school at Wellspring Academy will be established as a free-standing charter school supported by Michigan International Prep School (MIPS). At the core of any recovery school is a rigorous curriculum that results in students meeting state requirements to receive a traditional high school diploma. These schools traditionally include the standard collection of administrative and teaching staff and are supplemented with on-staff substance abuse counselors and mental health professionals who play a critical role in supporting students and their families — who are also learning to live with, and provide support for, their teens, who are radically transforming their lifestyle.

The existing school building at 28000 W. 9 Mile Road on the Wellspring campus in Farmington Hills will serve as the recovery high school and will incorporate the campus' other existing amenities. Those include: library, computer lab, gymnasium, weight room, dining hall, auditorium, art studio, ball fields and a running track.

As part of Wellspring's COVID-19 response plan, we have made the decision to launch Wellspring Academy virtually in January 2021 with wrap around recovery support services and a drop-in center at the Farmington Hills campus. In-person classes will officially begin in September 2021. For more information about Wellspring Academy and information on how to enroll your student, please visit wellspringacademy.com.


Wellspring Lutheran Services has built an entire behavioral health division offering a continuum of behavioral health services and supports for children, youth, families and seniors, that emphasizes recovery from trauma, addiction and other psycho-social challenges that prevent people from living their best possible life. 

This is important work, especially when you consider an estimated 43 million Americans have a mental health condition. In addition, 2 million face disorders related to prescription and nonprescription opioid addiction. And each day 130 Americans die from opioid overdoses.

The behavioral health division is led by Brian Spitsbergen, who holds a doctorate in counselor education from Oakland University, and has extensive executive leadership experience in the development of innovative community-based behavioral health and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment for adolescents, adults and their families. Spitsbergen will also be heading up Wellspring Academy.

Headquartered in Flint, Mich., Wellspring Lutheran Services is a statewide nonprofit committed to engaging people at every stage of life to help them experience and embrace their God-given potential. Wellspring helps change lives, build strong families and transform communities through a diverse set of services including: adoption services, affordable housing, assisted living, behavioral health, family preservation, foster care, home care, hospice and grief support, independent living, memory support, parenting support, short-term rehabilitation, skilled nursing care and supportive housing for youths. More than 1,100 employees carry out our work statewide, impacting people in more than 50 of Michigan's 83 counties. For more information, visit wellspringlutheran.com.


Michigan International Prep School (MIPS) is a tuition-free, K-12 virtual school that offers a highly customized online learning experience to over 1,200 students from across the state. MIPS uses world-class, online curriculum, one-on-one mentoring, and state-of-the-art educational technology to create an engaging and relevant learning environment for students who need something other than the traditional classroom setting. MIPS is AdvancEd accredited, NCAA-approved, NAIA-approved,  and is approved by the Michigan Department of Education as a statewide, public charter school. Michigan International Prep School's administrative headquarters are located at 48 South St, Ortonville, Mich. Learn more online at miprepschool.org.

Media Contact:
P: 989.415.9391
E: jhaiser@wellspringlutheran.com 

Source: Wellspring Lutheran Services


Categories: State News

Tags: education, Michigan's first recovery high school, recovery high school, substance use disorder, teen addiction, teens in recovery, Wellspring Academy

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