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The Association of Recovery in Higher Education launches #Our2020Vision Campaign, an engagement initiative to help move the collegiate recovery profession forward.

By KELSEY ALLEN

The collegiate recovery movement has grown exponentially over the past four decades, with efforts to establish collegiate recovery programs (CRPs) more than tripling since 2013. Today, the Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE) represents approximately 130 colleges and universities with support programs for students in recovery.

Yet that only represents a small fraction of the colleges and universities in the country. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 4,298 degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the U.S. as of the 2017–18 school year, and more than 1,400 of those are regionally accredited and offer four-year undergraduate degree programs.

With the goal of doubling the number of collegiate recovery programs by the end of 2020 and helping move the collegiate recovery profession forward, ARHE launched the #Our2020Vision Campaign.

“Everything is moving right along — programs are growing, students are being supported — but there’s still this feeling that, on the outside, collegiate recovery needs to be taken more seriously,” says Tim Rabolt, executive director of the nonprofit association. “The campaign is a way to cement collegiate recovery as a legitimate solution to all sorts of problems on campus.”

Research shows the recovery rate of students in recovery is 95 percent, meaning only 5 percent relapse during the school year. The national relapse average is 40 to 60 percent. Overall, retention rates are higher for collegiate recovery students than for the average student body (92 percent versus 81 percent, respectively). Graduate rates are also higher among students participating in CRPs (89 percent versus 61 percent, respectively).

A CRP not only serves the students involved; it can also be beneficial for the entire campus. For instance, when an academic institution takes ownership of recovery supports on its campus, students who are contemplating changing, cutting down, moderating or quitting their substance use might be nudged toward recovery. Moreover, students in recovery are likely to have a positive influence on campus culture, normalizing abstinence from alcohol or other drugs during college and sending a message that substance use is not a necessary ingredient to having fun.

Through the #Our2020Vision Campaign, ARHE hopes to support the development and sustainability of the collegiate recovery field so that one day there are CRPs on every campus throughout the country. Here’s a closer look at how ARHE hopes to accomplish that.

ACCREDITING COLLEGIATE RECOVERY PROGRAMS NATIONWIDE

A core component of the campaign is developing an accreditation process. Given the rapid development of CRPs around the country, there isn’t a formal model or systematic evaluation process to ensure that the recovery support provided by a CRP meets acceptable levels of quality. Much like the accreditation process that institutions of higher education undergo to confirm they meet certain educational standards, ARHE accreditation will create a set of standards for CRPs to be held to while also encouraging programs to be the best they can be.

“Right now, there are more collegiate recovery programs than there have ever been,” says Anne Thompson Heller, who led the efforts to implement and develop the UConn Recovery Community at the University of Connecticut and who is chairing the ARHE Accreditation Committee. “What happens is when we have that exponential growth, we see considerable variation among programs. This is the time for ARHE to wrap around collegiate recovery programs and provide further guidance to programs as they’re developing to help them with their implementation, with their strategic initiatives, with their growth and with their sustainability.”

Further, being an ARHE-accredited program will ensure students and parents that the recovery supports offered by the program are of high quality and have been evaluated by experts in the field.

“There are plenty of collegiate recovery support services available that may not constitute a collegiate recovery program,” Thompson Heller says.

“Accreditation will provide some distinctions around what those differences are. It will communicate to prospective students and families what types of programs are available and what programs might be the best fit for their unique needs. For example, some programs offer greater levels of structure and support, like a formal application process and participation requirements. Other programs may operate more loosely. Neither is better or worse. They’re just different. There are different considerations that might indicate one may be a better fit for some than others. We’re not here to say this program is good and that one is bad. We’re hoping to refine and better define the resources and services that are available.”

OFFERING COLLEGIATE RECOVERY COMPETENCY TRAINING

Another way ARHE hopes to eliminate the confusion around what collegiate recovery programs are and what they aren’t is by offering collegiate recovery program competency training to treatment centers and other organizations.

“We want to help treatment centers and other organizations partner with ARHE so that they can understand how we can work together,” says Patrice Salmeri, the executive director for recovery advancement at Augsburg University and the chair of the ARHE Competency Training Committee.

The training will cover everything from the history of the collegiate recovery movement to the research behind what works and what doesn’t to the cost-effectiveness of collegiate recovery with the goal of demonstrating how CRPs can help treatment centers see what they started.

“For instance, say a treatment center sends students to a CRP,” Salmeri says. “Well, that CRP is going to help protect the treatment gains that the student had while they were in treatment. In the CRP, those treatment gains are going to be realized and it helps the treatment center to increase their statistics regarding continued sobriety, success in the workforce and any other goals that a person would have coming out of treatment. CRPs help protect those gains made in treatment. It’s mutually beneficial.”

OFFERING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS

As colleges and universities recognize the need for CRPs, more collegiate recovery professionals will need to step up and meet that need — and they are. Many collegiate recovery program graduates are becoming CRP staff.

ARHE plans to incorporate student leadership and professional development opportunities, such as a collegiate recovery job fair or sessions on professional pathways, into the annual National Collegiate Recovery Conference. “There needs to be something separate for students to help them develop,” Rabolt says.

Adds Salmeri: “If you come out of a CRP and someone wants to hire you, that doesn’t make you the ideal candidate. It just means you’ve experienced one CRP. Higher ed has a huge curve. Students need to learn about higher ed before jumping into leading a CRP.”

TRAINING THE COLLEGIATE RECOVERY WORKFORCE

ARHE also plans to offer training for CRP staff at the national conference. The training will not only certify the work of the current CRP staff, but it will also train future CRP staff.

“We’ve been lucky that all staff members have been fantastic,” Rabolt says. “But there hasn’t been a main credential or qualification other than life experience and a background in social work or higher education. This will be another important layer that will help programs, staff and students and will certify the work they’re doing.”

ASSISTING IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW CRPS

To help reach the goal of 260 CRPs by the end of 2020, ARHE also plans on assisting in the development of new collegiate recovery programs and ensuring their sustainability “How do we maximize access for students by providing more CRPs at colleges and universities across the country?” Salmeri asks. “We have 130 member schools. How can we double the size so that more students can have access to recovery communities on campus?”

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To learn more about the campaign, visit collegiaterecovery.org/2020vision.

How You Can Get Involved

The primary components of the campaign are awareness, action and fundraising. If you want to get involved, here are some ways you can help.

  1. Set up a Facebook birthday fundraiser for ARHE.
  2. Join an ARHE committee: Advocacy, Conference, Membership, Communications or the Vision Committee. Email your regional representative to learn more.
  3. Become a member of ARHE to receive benefits and support the organization’s growth.
  4. Connect with your ARHE regional representative to learn more about what’s going on in your region.
  5. Visit the new ARHE website at collegiaterecovery.org.
  6. Attend the National Collegiate Recovery Conference.
  7. Connect with Executive Director Tim Rabolt and share your vision for the collegiate recovery profession. Email him at tim.rabolt@collegiaterecovery.org.
  8. Share this article to get more individuals involved.
  9. Make a donation to the campaign by visiting the fundraising page at collegiaterecovery.org/2020vision.
  10. Send a thank-you note or shout-out to any collegiate recovery supporter who you know.
  11. Engage with ARHE on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  12. Wear collegiate recovery swag and encourage your friends to do the same.
  13. Contact your local college or alma mater about collegiate recovery and why they should invest in a CRP on their campus.

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