CATS for Recovery Coming on Strong

Uk 's new CRC spaceIn January 2016, I started my job at the University of Kentucky as Prevention Coordinator in the office of Wellness Initiatives for Student Empowerment. Our office focuses on prevention and substance education, operating under a model of holistic wellness. We know that substance use affects many college students, to varying degrees, and it has always been our goal to give students accurate information and tools they need to succeed.

After learning about Collegiate Recovery Communities at the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and the Recovery National Conference in 2015, I was sold on the concept and knew that we needed to start one at UK immediately. Luckily, the timing was just right. With support from upper administration, the director of my office, and various campus partners, I began the CRC formation process. I got in touch with Alex, a UK graduate student working toward his Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy. As an individual in long-term recovery, he understood the need for recovery resources on campus, and agreed to help me get a CRC started.

We started with formative measures, like site visits to other programs and communicating with CRC students and program directors.   We formed and met with an advisory committee, created partnerships across campus, and developed administrative and community support. In the summer, we started an open recovery meeting on campus, facilitated by Alex, which continued into the fall semester. Throughout this entire process, we kept operating under the assumption that “if we build it, they will come.” And they did!

Things really picked up momentum late into the summer when Phil, a student in long-term recovery, contacted me about getting involved in the CRC. He was returning to the university and wanted to be as involved as possible in anything recovery-related. Leading into the beginning of the fall semester, Phil worked diligently to spread the word about the CRC in the surrounding Lexington recovery community, which helped build the number of students from two to ten.

One of the coolest parts about this process has been the community support that we’ve received. When a story came out about the CRC in a local paper back in August, I had an influx of people contact me about wanting to get involved in whatever way possible, whether that was volunteering time or donating food for our meetings or coming to speak with the students to share experience, strength, and hope. In my mind, this is a crucial component in a successful CRC because I want our students to not only be involved on campus but also in the larger community.

One of the most exciting developments of this semester came last week when we found out that we would finally get a dedicated space on campus, located in Blazer Dining Hall. This has been one of the biggest goals we’ve had for the semester, as having a space on campus is crucial for enhanced community engagement and interaction. We’re now in the process of moving in, and it should be up and running when students return for the spring semester. We’ll then be able to utilize this new space for our weekly recovery meetings, as well as a monthly Recovery Night event that we plan to start in the spring, too. We’ve also been talking with community partners to host a support meeting for young people who are impacted by their family members’ or friends’ substance use or recovery so we’d like to get that going come January 2017.

We have big plans for the upcoming semester and years. Building on the momentum that we’ve established the past several months, we’re also in the process of preparing for the CATS for Recovery Living Learning Program to go online and be available for students starting in Fall 2017. This LLP has been created specifically as a residential option for students in recovery, as well as allies, to live in a safe and substance-free environment on campus. We’ve partnered with the College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry to make this possible, and we look forward to working with other campus partners to provide our students with as many resources as possible to help them succeed.

After all, We Are all Stronger Together.


For more information about the CRC and CATS for Recovery LLP at the University of Kentucky, please contact Kelsey Otten at (859) 257-7048 or



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