Establishing a community for encouragement of students in recovery

By Gabriella Morrongiello


Published: Friday, November 30, 2012


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. Read More…

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