Collegiate Recovery Community to support students with substance abuse
Published: Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
SMU is in the process of creating a Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) in order to provide support for students recovering from addiction.
A campus-wide e-mail was sent to the student body in the spring of 2009 asking for students to complete the survey if they were either in recovery or struggling with substance abuse.
Of the 11,000 students enrolled at SMU in 2009, an estimated 3,476 students, 31.6 percent, met the criteria for substance abuse while an estimated 165 students, four percent, responded that they were seeking help.
Because of the strong response from the students, the Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention at SMU started focus groups, asked recovering or struggling students what their needs were.
Junior Michael Whitacre, a recovering alcoholic, supports a recovery program on campus.
"It would've been an incredible blessing to have AA (alcohol anonymous) on campus to show that I am not alonethat there are other well-rounded, bright and educated kids suffering from the same thing," Whitacre said.
Though SMU does not currently offer meetings on campus for students facing substance abuse problems, they have the option to go to programs such as Cornerstone at Highland Park United Methodist Church or AA and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings held in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
At present, there are 16 recovery schools in the United States that are serving as model programs for SMU such as Texas Tech University, University of Texas at Austin, Vanderbilt and Augsburg College.
Because alcohol and drug abuse are prevalent at many college campuses, many students 18 and older who had been in treatment in high school need continuous support to maintain a strong recovery, according to John Sanger, the director of the Center of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention.
After visiting Texas Tech's CRC program, Sanger, as well as Jan McCutchin, a counselor for the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention program, believe the key piece to helping students on campus would be to initiate twelve-step meetings that students could attend regularly.
Twelve-Step programs were originally proposed by AA but have been adapted by other programs such as NA and now schools with recovery programs. The twelve-step process includes the admittance that one cannot control one's addiction and learning how to live a new life without substance abuse.
The short-term goal for SMU's CRC is to find a room on campus that can be dedicated to students recovering or struggling with substance abuse.
"We want to designate this space as a safe place for students to stop by to connect with others throughout the day," McCutchin said.
"Students need to know they can go somewhere and not be alone," Whitacre said. "If they do have a problem, they can get treated and can do it on campus."
CRC at SMU would establish networking and support among students recovering from addiction.
"It would provide a fun alternative to drinking and drugs. It's a life style change that needs support, activities and weekend plans," McCutchin said.
Sanger said, "We want to show that there is a way to have a normal, fun and healthy college experience without substance abuse."
CRC would be student driven as students hold each other accountable.
"Some students will be clean and sober for two years while others have only been sober for a few days," Sanger said.
Schools that already have an existing CRC have found university retention rates to be higher. SMU could retain at minimum $3 million in tuition, according to calculations from the survey completed in 2009.
In April, Sanger will be attending the second annual Recovery and Relapse Prevention Conference at Texas Tech University.
"We want to make not drinking a real and viable aspect of SMU," Sanger said.
Estimates from the survey were obtained using a formula recommended by the Texas Tech Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery.