JACKSONVILLE, Fla — A local nonprofit is calling attention to a statistic impacting Jacksonville's Hispanic community.
According to research, Duval County tops the list for high schoolers using opioids, with the rate highest among Hispanic teenagers.
Florida Recovery Schools' River Oak Center and Centro de la Esperanza are located in the back of Unity Church on Lomax Street in Riverside, a new location for them. The executive director says they're helping 12 times as many families at the nonprofit Centro de la Esparanza, which connects those in the Hispanic community with resources like healthcare, food and clothing.
They meet many families when their children come into the recovery school.
"Our numbers have grown from working with approximately 200 families a year at the center to working with as many as 200 families a month," said Executive Director Dan Renaud.
Renaud says there are 25 students at a time in the academic program for teenagers in recovery from substance abuse.
"There is a ton of need," said Rachel Lucas with Centro de la Esperanza and a peer coach with the recovery school. "We need support. We need volunteers for the Hispanic Center."
The couple says the statistics are startling, referencing a study on drug use among high school students in urban school districts, published on the National Library of Medicine's website. It finds Hispanic adolescents in Duval County have the highest rate of opioid use and are among the highest in heroin use in the country.
"When I read it, I couldn't believe it," said Renaud.
Renaud says they worked with 700 children last year and only have four people on staff. The couple says they're able to help the children in the recovery school because they were those struggling kids impacted by substance abuse, either struggling themselves or impacted by a family member.
"I can now do the same thing for kids that was done for me," Renaud said.