Jack Kramer photo
Image from the Generation Found trailer (Jack Kramer photo)

Moviegoers in Branford Monday were moved by a film that tracked a recovery high school in Houston and were hopeful it would kick start efforts to establish a similar school in Connecticut.

Generation Found had its second Connecticut showing Monday at the Branford Regal. It was moved from a smaller theater to a bigger one when tickets for the show sold out.

One of the people who saw the movie Monday was Guilford’s Betsy Jehan, who lost her daughter Martine to addiction at the age of 26.

“I was very surprised to see a high school for students in recovery. I have never heard about this kind of school and I am shocked that I haven’t,” Jehan said. “I really don’t understand why we don’t have any recovery schools in Connecticut.  We have an epidemic going on right here, right now, in Connecticut. I think these recovery schools are a major step in the right direction.

Another parent who lost her child to addiction and saw the movie Monday was Sue Kruczek of Guilford.

Sue’s son, Nick, 20 died from a heroin overdose in 2013. She stood next to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy recently when he signed a new law that limits, in most cases, initial prescriptions for opioids to seven days. The new law took effect July 1.

“I wholeheartedly agree that having a sober high school would give our addicted children a standing chance to overcome and survive addiction,’’ Kruczek said Tuesday. “A week of detox or a month or two of rehab has proven to not be effective.”

She said it seems a school would cost less than incarceration.

“We’ve blown millions on intervention programs that don’t work,” Kruczek said. “Although, I’m not sure how you can put a price tag on trying to save a child’s life.’’

Across the country, there are 36 recovery high schools, ranging in size from 30 to 100 students. The nearest recovery high schools are in Massachusetts, which has five.
But in Connecticut, attempts to fund recovery high schools haven’t made it through the Education Committee in the last two legislative sessions.

The reason, according to recovery school advocate state Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, “is it’s been tough to get support for the concept during tough budget times.”

That doesn’t sit well with Andy Buccaro, executive director of Project Courage, an outpatient substance abuse center based in Old Saybrook.

“A fresh start is needed and recovery high schools are at the center of that revolution,’’ Buccaro said.

He said a community is judged by its priorities and “our priorities are reflected in where we spend our money, and in this country we give lip service to problem of substance abuse, and when you add the word ‘adolescent’ into the mix…well now you’ve stepped off the cliff.’’

Generation Found was co-directed by Jeff Reilly, a Guilford native and two-time Emmy award winning editor/filmmaker, who wrote, produced, and edited the film with Newtown High School graduate Greg Williams, a recovery advocate who last year launched the nation’s first big-budget addiction organization with a Westport businessman whose son died of a drug overdose.

The film makes the case that recovery high schools — in conjunction with support programs for teens on nights and weekends — can make a difference when other treatment attempts have failed.

Jack Kramer
Jeff Reilly, who co-directed the film, outside the theater Monday (Jack Kramer)

The turnout at the Branford Regal Monday “went beyond my wildest dream,” Reilly said. “It was truly a humbling and surreal experience to see that many people come out to support our little film about a big topic.’’

Reilly hopes the film “resonates with people on an emotional level and they are encouraged to activate around the need to support our adolescents in recovery or struggling with addiction.’’

Jehan said that Connecticut needs to jump on board the recovery school bandwagon.

“We know 30 days in rehab and then send them back to the same situation doesn’t work,’’ said Jehan. “If these children can’t find where they fit in it’s no wonder that they choose to numb themselves.  In the world of recovery there needs to be many options.”

Jehan said she wishes there were a recovery high school when her daughter was young because it all started when she began “trying to fit in.”

Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, said he plans to join with Mushinsky in a renewed effort to have studies done on whether recovery schools in Connecticut are an “idea that we need to make happen.”