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Recommendations for collegiate recovery communities on small residential campuses

There are relatively few collegiate recovery communities (CRCs) on small residential campuses (SRC).  The current article reviewed existing programs and common implementation problems experienced on small campuses.  Recommendations are made for how to succeed in bringing a CRC to the small campus environment using a bottom-up planning approach and a scaled-down resource utilization.  Five steps are outlined for planning and implementation of a bottom-up, scaled-down CRC that is SRC-friendly.

The first step is formation of a project team with an identified leader. An ideal choice is a staff or faculty member familiar with the college’s systems who has high rapport with colleagues across campus and expertise in young adult substance abuse.  The leader typically assembles the planning team and may or may not assume the future role of CRC Director.  In a student-led CRC formation, the choice may be a student leader with strong support from campus administrators and faculty who join the planning team.

Second, establish the need for services widely among college stakeholders.  To do so, scholars recommend conducting a campus survey to assess the prevalence of substance dependence, the number of students in recovery, and whether dependent or recovering students are interested in attending recovery support events.  Alternatively, use national statistics to estimate the number of students affected by substance dependence.

Third, create a project plan with an implementation timeline. This should include a mission statement, clear goals and objectives, a project timeline, and a list of potential obstacles.  Under a scaled-down, bottom-up model, prioritize low cost CRC activities such as support groups, sobriety contracts, and recovery-based housing. It is critical to have a safe, consistent place for recovering students to gather.

Fourth, rally support among key stakeholders.  Stakeholders primarily include administrators, faculty and staff, and students.  They may also include student families, the community that surrounds the small campus, and alumni.  Educational sessions may be delivered to faculty, staff, students, and community members to raise awareness of recovery obstacles and drinking culture and to mitigate stigma associated with recovery.

Fifth, fundraise as needed. Financial support may or may not come from administrators on campus.   Another possibility is to explore external grants and donations.  A helpful and evidence-based argument for the former is the increased retention of students who are supported on campus in their recovery. (See Project 1: A comprehensive curriculum for designing collegiate recovery communities.)

Take Away: Scaled-down CRC programs can be successfully implemented on small residential campuses using a bottom-up planning model with thoughtful leadership to foster buy-in from campus stakeholders.

Staton, S.C., Melekis, K. & McCarthy, P. (2018). A review of collegiate recovery communities and recommendations for implementation on a small residential campus. Innovative Higher Education. [Published online ahead of print August 29, 2018] doi-org.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/10.1007/s10755-018-9442-2

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