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The Providence Center to Open RI’s First Youth Recovery Center

Posted: Fri, October 27, 2017
By: Jake Bissaro

Early next year, The Providence Center (TPC) is set to open Rhode Island’s first recovery center designed specifically for teens struggling with addiction. The Jim Gillen Anchor Youth Recovery Center will provide access to age-appropriate recovery supports for young people, and connect them with peers to establish a network of friends who are understanding and supportive. 

Located at 1280 North Main St. in Providence, the Youth Center will be open every weekday after school and on weekends, the time periods teens report as being the most difficult time to abstain from using drugs and alcohol. The Providence Center also operates Anchor Learning Academy (ALA), the first and only recovery high school in the state, and views the establishment of a youth recovery center as the next step to meeting a growing need in the community.

The Anchor Youth Recovery Community Center will provide:

  • Recovery meetings for youth facilitated by members under the supervision of program staff
  • One-on-one recovery coaching from certified peer recovery coaches
  • Education and supports for parents
  • Staff to assist students with homework
  • A focus on the arts, with art projects, karaoke night, and more

The idea originated last year when TPC hosted a screening of the documentary Generation Found to mark Overdose Awareness Day. The film follows one recovery high school in Houston’s successful efforts in building a youth recovery movement in the community. “TPC and Anchor’s leadership was so inspired by this school in the film, that we sent staff members to Houston to meet with the principal and find out how they got these services off the ground,” said Holly Fitting, TPC’s Vice President of Recovery & Residential Services. “It made us realize the need to start developing a recovery center for teens right here in Rhode Island.”

Recent data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that RI has above-average rates of youth substance use. In 2013-2014, about 12.1% of adolescents aged 12–17 reported using illicit drugs within the month prior to being surveyed – compared to a national average of 9.1%.

At TPC’s Circle of Stars fund raiser a few weeks ago, Anchor recovery coach Abigail Stenberg gave a moving speech about her own experiences in recovery, and how a supportive peer recovery community did not exist when she was a teen: “When I was in high school, I had no positive peers around me who were trying to do the same thing.  I had no support, no safe place to go after school, no one telling me that it was okay to be in recovery – in fact, that it was cool to be in recovery,” said Stenberg.

The Center will be dedicated to Jim Gillen, Anchor Recovery Center’s first director and tireless recovery advocate who passed away two years ago. Gillen had a passion for working with youth and did prevention work in schools, often making presentations to students about the dangers of addiction.

The program will start with a soft opening at first for ALA and The Met School students, but TPC hopes to open the program to all teens in Rhode Island soon after, and later expand to multiple locations if successful. “Right now, the Youth Center is donation-based, but we’re hoping to explore partnerships with insurance companies to make the models more sustainable,” said Fitting.

“Ultimately, I’d like to have the students’ ideas be the main driver of the activities and operations at the Center,” said Fitting. “We want to make sure they know that this place is for them, somewhere that they will be supported and also have fun.”