I’ve been talking to people directing the Collegiate Recovery Community programs around the state, trying to build up my sense of history and fact-checking information. I’m behind schedule, it’s been time to write and promote the efforts of all these Recovery Warriors. I need to point out; Collegiate Recovery Communities, with some financial support from the University/State, PAY into the school, they do NOT cost the school and they really deserve to grow.

I have witnessed universities resistant to opening recovery centers and promoting groups due to the conception that parents of students, including potential students, don’t want to hear that the school has a problem on campus. I witnessed this in Ann Arbor, where U of M has a fully functional Collegiate Recovery Program now but back in the day resisted opening one because of how it would “look”. This was a campus where a student would die, sometimes each semester. Usually alcohol-related; acute alcohol poisoning, falling out a 4th floor window, severe car accident, etc. Die. It brings to mind William White’s great line, “College is an abstinence-hostile environment”. So true.

Here’s a link about an incident on Duke’s campus last week. To me, at that point, appearances be damned!

My bottom line is; People, we can all stop pretending any segment of the population does not have a drug problem. It crosses all barrier’s; economic level, social strata, race, creed, religion, gender, ages, etc. And always has! So let’s end the judgement and now we can get to the good news. These Collegiate Recovery Programs work! Because recovery is a real thing. And it is contagious. Recovery spreads!

Now, back to the money!! The University of Texas has one of the strongest U system of Collegiate Recovery Programs in the US and going back some twenty + years, the data to show for it. The simple breakdown of the data shows us what I personally have witnessed in a number of ways, on a number of fronts. (I love when things can be simple) Strong campus recovery communities save and make money because of:

  • Student retention. When you keep a student, rather than “lose” him/her out of the school, it is “cheaper” and better for EVERYONE. It’s the same as an employer/employee situation. The upfront cost to search, find, interview, hire, orient and train an employee becomes costly when you have big turnover. You want to retain them!
  • As the programs grow in strength and reputation, they attract new students who are in the market for a recovery program. You increase enrollment.

The University of Texas reports millions of dollars “made” because of factors like this. You understand, I want it because it saves people from danger, ruin and death and because someone did it for me. But hey if it makes money too that’s what we call a win-win.

Texas Tech’s program goes back 30 years, since 1986, and has full scale how-to-do-it Collegiate Recovery Curriculum links here. Here is a major summary: 2015 Collegiate Recovery Asset Survey Monitor.

I count 27 states supporting some 49 Collegiate Recovery Programs across the land, with our own Southeast region hosting the most; 8 states supporting 15 campus programs. They are growing so fast accurate numbers are hard to obtain. It is said there are a total of 90+ on the boards. An Association of Recovery in Higher Education non-profit has grown from this and is working to gather and aggregate this data. Ann Casiraghi from the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities out of Lubbock, shared that Texas Tech University is spearheading a plan with ARHE; Collegiate Recovery Communities across the country are participating in a survey to create a national collegiate recovery database.

As they frame it, “The collegiate recovery school movement began with the development of school-based recovery support services at Brown University (1977). A collegiate recovery program (CRP) is a supportive environment within the campus culture that reinforces the decision to disengage from addictive behavior. It is designed to provide an educational opportunity alongside recovery support to ensure that students do not have to sacrifice one for the other.”

ARHE is having their 7th National Collegiate Recovery Conference in Atlanta in April.

Speaking of ARHE and getting back to NC, Tim Rabolt (an ARHE Board member) wrote a great three-part series on NC Collegiate Recovery for the Huffington Post blog. Tim is a graduate student at The George Washington University. He’s been in recovery from his mental and substance use disorder since spring of 2011, his senior year of high school. During his freshman year at GWU, he was a founding member of the GW collegiate recovery program, a support service for students with mental or substance use disorders. He’s interned with Athletes for Hope and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Plus, he is a current Outreach Organizer for Facing Addiction, a national nonprofit planning the Unite to Face Addiction rally on October 4th, 2015 in Washington, DC.

NC Collegiate got a lift with seed money, a state-wide funding grant, for seven schools; UNC-G, UNC-W, UNC-C, UNC-CH, NCA&T, ECU and WCU. More money is now called for! Other NC schools are growing programs, either through purely volunteer work, such as NC State or through other funding, like UNC-A. Reports of the growth of recovery communities at Appalachian State, Meredith College, UNC-Pembroke and Duke abound. I may have missed some.

I heard Jennifer Cervi, Collegiate Recovery Community Coordinator of UNC-W, give an excellent, authentic talk to a prevention class at the NCFADS conference last year that rocked the house.

Talking to Anthony Greenidge, Clinical Counselor at NCA&T, Tracey Suggs, Collegiate Community Coordinator at UNC-W, Frank Allison, Program Coordinator at UNC-CH and Jarmichael Ross, Collegiate Coordinator at ECU, I hear of lots of programming and fun activities happening on campus. Community means social activities and what they report is that as their groups grow, students who do not necessarily have a drug problem but want to be a part of fun and recreation sans alcohol (and other drugs) join in. Allies abound. Alliances and friends are made. Brain cells are saved! Sober tailgates, bowling parties, Halloween parties, movies, speakers on recovery-related topics, and much more are happening. Sobriety and emotional connections are re-enforced. Chancellors, Athletic Directors and other school officials are attending along with the students.

All these centers/schools are developing social media outlets to not only communicate with interested parties and promote events but also to break stigma through greater visibility. Web pages, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit for social activism and more.

As these and other schools grow their groups they will develop interconnected communities statewide for current and future students in recovery and that is beaucoup healing. I foresee a day when there is a state collegiate recovery conference yearly, with the webs of recovery growing ever stronger as they share what works around the state. Community.

We have not even cracked open the High School Recovery Programs topic yet. That’s what the Association of Recovery Schools is advancing, not to mention Young People in Recovery. These groups are coming right behind the wake of Collegiate to spread the message and recovery support down into the young where it becomes more than supports, it becomes prevention. Word is these two groups are merging, for greater effectiveness.

Another resource is Transforming Youth Recovery created from funds donated by the Stacie Mathewson Foundation. Stacie lost a son, who first faced the challenge of chemical dependency in his early adolescence, and their foundation and resources are committed to preventing addiction and protecting the health of our youth. They are focusing on the impact that primary, secondary school and college environments have on young people. They launched an initiative using community asset and capacity building that is already changing the lives of students with substance abuse and co-occurring mental health issues.

One way to frame this, the ultimate goal of all of this; To increase prevention. As the saying goes, “We want to shrink drug using careers and grow sustained recovery careers”. We need to keep that in mind as we decide the wisest way to spend our dollars. The prevention programs already in place are needed and will be grown and supported by this bigger snapshot. It’s so important, Greg Williams, The Anonymous People director is making his next documentary about high school recovery programs and more. There’s a trailer here; Generation Found.

This is but a thumbnail sketch of something whose time is here and now! Let us continue to strike while the iron is hot! Whoever you are, wherever you go, I say; think of yourself as a Recovery Ally and Drop on by to say Hi!