Dan Renaud, director of the River Oaks Center, embraces one of his students in the program during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

New location and more resources for student substance abuse center

Aug. 22, 2019 – Not long after the River Oaks Center opened three years ago, Dan Renaud knew there may be a problem.

The center – a partnership between Duval County Public Schools and Florida Recovery Schools – provided academic support and substance abuse counseling for Jacksonville high schoolers.

The good thing, said Renaud, who serves as the director of the program, is that children throughout Jacksonville were coming. However, many of them were in great need; some homeless, some in the foster care system.

“When children started coming to us, we realized a lot of them didn’t have resources,” said Renaud. “Kids with resources can go wherever they need for treatment. Our kids cannot.”

It is why Renaud fought so hard to build partnerships with city, state, and community leaders…and why, three years later – as dozens of those community partners gathered to cut the ribbon on the school’s new location – Renaud grew emotional.

“It’s not a ‘me’ thing, this is a ‘we’ thing,” Renaud said. “We could not afford to do what we do without our community partners. We get food support. We get clothing support. We get counseling support. We get academic support.”

The new downtown location – located within the Westside Church of Christ Building at 23 West 8th Street – puts the school closer to community partners and resources in Jacksonville.

The classroom sizes are also larger, said Renaud. There are also security cameras, which allow staff to monitor what’s happening inside and outside the school. Additionally, unlike the previous location, students can access it using free JTA bus passes provided by the Center.

“This doubles our capacity to serve youth,” said Renaud.

More than 130 students have been through the program including 26 who are currently participating. Renaud said that as the program continues to expand, they will be able to serve more and more students.

“The kids come here mainly because they know we love and care about them,” Renaud said. “It’s important work because these kids don’t have the resources available to them and this school gives them the resources.”

About the River Oak Center Duval County Public Schools and Florida Recovery Schools partnered in 2016 to open the River Oaks Center. It provides a safe space for students who are battling substance abuse disorders and have made a commitment to sobriety. At the center, students complete their academic coursework while receiving treatment and support to aid in their recovery.

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