More prospective college students, as well as those already enrolled, are in recovery for alcohol or substance abuse. Within the UNC system, UNC Charlotte is staking its claim to be a leader in offering the system’s first Collegiate Recovery Community program. The mission is to assist recovering students to remain sober.
“It’s not easy being a college student. They face many challenges, such as leaving home for the first time, new professors and the prospect of living with complete strangers as roommates. Those recovering from addictions face even more challenges, such as wanting to keep their addiction private or not wanting to feel excluded,” explained DebbieInsley, director of wellness services at the Student Health Center. “UNC Charlotte’s Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) offers hope for students who wish to maintain their sobriety. The community is an extension of the ongoing work of the Wellness Promotion Department in addiction prevention, education, intervention and recovery as it reaches out to all UNC Charlotte students.”
According to research, the number of Americans seeking treatment for substance abuse is highest among those aged 18 to 24, and heavy alcohol use is highest among those between the ages of 20 and 22.
While community recovery options are available in the greater Charlotte region, these services are not tailored to the particular needs and challenges of college students, Insley stated.
A licensed clinical addictions specialist, Insley championed the need to begin a Collegiate Recovery Community at the University. Campus leaders were supportive of the initiative, and the program began in fall 2011 with 12-step meetings at the Student Health Center.
Plans are now under way for a dedicated space in the Student Health Center for CRC participants; IKEA Charlotte is partnering with the University to furnish it.
“The room that we will use for our dedicated meeting space isn’t very large. IKEA is a recognized leader in offering solutions to furnish small spaces, so we submitted a proposal outlining the mission of the Collegiate Recovery Community and the needs for the meeting room,” said Angela Allen, associate director of administrative services at the Student Health Center. “Recently, members of the IKEA Charlotte design team visited campus to guide us on how to turn our institutional-looking space into a warm, welcoming environment for our students. We are grateful for IKEA Charlotte’s support of this important project.”
IKEA is known as the “life improvement store,” noted IKEA Charlotte spokesperson Brian Gott. “And in this case, we’re hoping to help improve the lives of college students right here in Charlotte who are recovering from addiction. This project also plays into two of our strengths – design and small space living - so it is a great opportunity for us.”
The dedicated meeting space for the Collegiate Recovery Community is expected to be furnished and ready for the upcoming fall semester. Through the meeting room, Insley and her staff will provide CRC participants access to tutoring services and peer mentoring support along with educational seminars on life skills, addiction and recovery.
“We want to provide a nurturing, affirming environment in which students recovering from addictive disorders can successfully pursue their academic, personal and professional goals,” Insley stated.
The University’s Collegiate Recovery Community is modeled after a program established at Texas Tech University, considered a leader in the field. According to Texas Tech officials, its program participants have posted a cumulative grade point average of 3.34, a graduation rate of 80 percent and a relapse rate of about 6 percent during the past 10 years.
“We are still in the early stages of our Collegiate Recovery Community program, but as the state’s urban research institution, we believe we are uniquely positioned to reach out to prospective students as well as currently enrolled students who are in recovery to provide them the resources to maintain their sobriety,” said Insley.
In addition to the meeting space, Insley said efforts are being planned to establish a Collegiate Recovery Learning Community by fall 2013 that would offer a sober-by-choice housing option, which would send a powerful message to parents and recovering students who are exploring prospective colleges.
“Such a learning community would give recovering students the boost they need to integrate into a collegiate environment while remaining sober,” noted Insley. “In addition, it would give them a ready peer group who wholeheartedly support sobriety.”
Photos: Student Health Center's David Rousmaniere, Angela Allen and Debbie Insley meet with members of the IKEA Charlotte design team (top). Inset: An IKEA team member measures the planned meeting space.