Establishing a community for encouragement of students in recovery
Published: Friday, November 30, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 30, 2012 01:11
Seventy percent. That is the number of college students recovering from drug and alcohol addictions who will relapse within their first year of sobriety, according to a study performed by Ken Winters, professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota.
Last night, Robert Reff, Oregon State University substance abuse prevention coordinator, presented the first initiative on behalf of the university’s administration and student health services to establish a community for students in recovery who attend OSU.
“Though there is significant attention towards drug and alcohol prevention on campus, few resources exist to students recovering from addictions to these substances,” Reff said.
Reff has spent many years working with students in recovery and helping to establish recovery programs at various universities. Reff has realized that the conventional wisdom in this day and age supports the notion that the worst place one can be in recovery is on a college campus.
“There are unique challenges being a college student in recovery,” Reff said at the meeting. “Imagine being 18 and walking onto a campus after being in a treatment facility and then seeing what it’s like on game day and a Friday night.”
Reff’s concerns for recovering students at OSU have developed with reason. In the spring of 2010, the Student Health Center worked with the National College Health Assessment to evaluate the OSU student body and discovered that only 20.2 percent of students had never used alcohol, an alarming statistic for a student body well under 30,000.
During his presentation, Reff stated there tends to be 300-1,100 students in recovery on a campus this size.
“On its surface it doesn’t look like a lot, but [a recovery community] is a lot for the students,” Reff said. “It’s knowing there are other students in similar circumstances.”
An on-campus community for students in recovery wouldn’t just be an excellent asset for OSU, but for the West Coast as well. According to Reff, if a recovery program were to be successfully established at OSU, it would be the only university recovery program west of the Rockies, a statistic he discovered through the Association of Recovery Schools.
While no decision regarding budget and policy has been made, there is a slew of support from people who are genuinely interested in encouraging students in recovery on this campus.
What Reff and his many collaborators, including Jackie Alvarez and Raphelle Rhodes, wish to do is slowly constitute a residential hall or living center strictly designated for OSU students in recovery. Here, students would be able to engage in their studies and live their daily lives with others who are determined to maintain their sobriety.
Prior to coming to OSU in January 2012, Reff worked at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota where he began a student recovery program. He plans to use the experience and expertise acquired while at St. Cloud State to do similar work at OSU.
“This is not a treatment facility, group home, NA or AA, it is an intentional effort to support students active in recovery,” Reff said.
Raphelle Rhodes, a graduate student at OSU and intern working closely with Reff on this new project, said “some programs have the ability to address multiple types of recovery, we will focus on recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.”
Rhodes hopes to collaborate with similar organizations in the Corvallis community that, she believes, do a great job working with students in recovery already.
David Keele, the house dad for Pi Kappa Psi, believes this initiative to be one of the greatest things he’s seen in a long time.
“I would love to see it move further. Drinking, the way most of the greek life drinks, is not socially acceptable,” Keele said. “It has gotten to a point where a student who applies for a job after college with fraternity membership listed on his resume, gets him moved to the bottom of the pile.”
Keele has already had young men approach him, seeking advice about drinking and the potential of an addiction.
For these men and students alike, a recovery program would make all the difference in their time spent at OSU.
“[We want] students in recovery to look at OSU as a place they want to go,” Reff said.
Those who would like to see a community for students in recovery at OSU can help by visiting the website http://studenthealth.oregonstate.edu/recovery.
Gabriella Morrongiello, news reporter