The Story of the College Recovery Community: MSU Addiction Recovery Center

The road to recovery from addiction is personal to Dawn Kepler, Community Health Associate for MSU Student Health Center.

When she was a student at Michigan State, Kepler said she tried to start her own recovery but didn’t know where to start.

Her path to recovery began after college and brought her back to MSU, working in the health promotion department where she had the opportunity to give students the administrative support she never had. .

Five years ago, three students approached the Department of Health Promotion to ask the university to develop a program to help students with drug addiction recover and have a support group for them. help get sober out of college, Kepler said.

It was originally a student-led group called the Spartans’ Organization for All Recovery, or SOAR. The program was designed to create a “fun and inviting social environment for students recovering from addiction,” according to the Collegiate Recovery Community, or CRC, website.

SOAR was successful in its first year and led the university to develop its own institutionalized program with Kepler as the group coordinator.

“I myself am a long-term recovery individual,” Kepler said. “I was a student at MSU who was new to recovery at the time, and I was looking for my own recovery support and I really struggled to find them. I know I never really did it as a student because when I was at MSU they didn’t exist in the same way as they do today. It’s something that is definitely a passion for me. I love to see our students being able to connect with other students around the recovery lifestyle. ”

CRC began in 2017 to help students in the MSU community recover from substance abuse issues and provide an on-campus space where students can participate in a substance-free student community. It is one of some 150 college student recovery programs in the country, Kepler said.

“It’s something that can create a lot of shame in people because of it (the stigma),” Kepler said. “It’s also something that people don’t automatically identify as a problem, especially on a college campus where substance use is so much a lot more visual than maybe in the wider community.”

The CRC is designed to help recovering students fight the stigma of an addiction disorder by using peer support and trained staff to give them a fun and sustainable lifestyle without the presence of their vices.

“It really is a student-centered, student-focused program on the needs of the students and on adhering to best practices in the field to try to be as effective as possible in supporting students in their recovery.” , Kepler said.

CRC uses student feedback to develop different programs to better serve students looking to begin their recovery process. The goal is to make sure that every student involved in the program gets the support they need.

CRC services include student rehabilitation housing on the North Campus, weekly student support meetings, full-time staff to speak with students, a lounge available during the week, and low-key weekly social events.

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Students can get involved as much as they want. Kepler said some students are all in attendance while others are just attending peer support meetings or social events. The most popular event is the weekly peer-to-peer meetings.

Recovery housing for students began in 2018 following the success of the first year program. It has six double rooms – three for men and three for women – for students who are actively recovering and still looking for an authentic university experience.

“These are usually students who are new to recovery and really want to benefit from these extra supports and the added responsibility that comes with having the Housing Support Specialist for home recovery,” said Kepler.

The support specialist this year is a graduate student from MSU’s School of Social Work. They live in the house with the students to make sure that the students get the help they need, whether it’s holding the students accountable or just being there for them so that they are not isolated. .

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Accommodation for the Support Specialist is paid for through scholarships from the Jamie Daniels Foundation and the Children’s Foundation. CRC received a grant of $ 50,000 from the two organizations to cover the living costs of the support specialist and provide financial assistance to CRC students. This is the third consecutive year that foundations have awarded the grant to CRC.

Kepler said the foundations are keen to support CRC and expand its efforts across Michigan.

“They have been great in helping to support this living student position, this recovering housing support specialist and allowing us to pay for room and board for this student who is on the front line there every day,” by registering, supporting our students living in recovery housing, ”said Kepler.

The grant money is also used to pay for tuition and living expenses to ease some of the financial burdens of a student who has to pay for rehabilitation services, such as counseling.

CRC plans to resume in-person activities throughout the school year while following university health and safety protocols after a year of operating online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. CRC will maintain some hybrid options for students after the success of their online effort.

“They felt really disconnected during the pandemic,” Kepler said. “Due to the guidelines regarding physical distancing and the nature of the pandemic, it has been an isolating experience. Isolation is the biggest risk factor our recovering students report. “

The group began having in-person and hybrid meetings this summer after Ingham County lifted restrictions on outdoor gatherings. The meetings were just the start of the CRC’s comeback.

“I’m really looking forward to having more opportunities to have these opportunities in person because it’s just for our students,” Kepler said. “It’s something they’ve identified that they want. Some of our students have really embraced the online virtual login elements, and some of our students have not. We try to adapt and provide both as much as possible.

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