The National Collegiate Recovery Conference celebrates its 10th year
This summer, students from across the country will convene at Boston University for a four-day conference on collegiate recovery – a phrase that describes the network of people and programs that support thousands of college students in recovery from substance use disorders.
The National Collegiate Recovery Conference is in its 10th year and represents the strength and growth of the movement to make college a more welcoming and supportive experience for students in recovery.
It is led and organized by the Association of Recovery in Higher Education, (ARHE), a non-profit organization that represents collegiate recovery programs on college campuses across the country.
Tim Rabolt is its executive director. As a person in recovery who started his own program as an undergraduate, Rabolt is now in a position to expand the support system to more and more students needing what was initially not available to him.
“I got into recovery in high school,” he said. “When I went to college at George Washington University, I couldn’t find any recovery support, which was not unique,” he said, noting that eight years later, most schools still don’t have any kind of recovery programming.
“It’s just not at the same level of support as other student groups like LGTB students, international students or veterans,” he said.
Rabolt says that despite progress, people still have trouble talking about recovery and sobriety on campus, which makes it hard to target support.
Stigma is one of the challenges his association addresses as it works to build the campus by campus networks that can keep students in school and on track with their sobriety as well as their academic trajectory.
“The goal in supporting students in recovery is so they don’t have to leave school in order to stay sober,” he said.
Experts agree that collegiate recovery programs are a key part of a larger strategy to address substance use issues on campus.
In a 2017 report by the Mary Christie Foundation, the Maryland School of Public Health and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation for Recovery Advocacy authors wrote, “Young people in recovery from substance use disorders should not have to choose between going to college and staying sober.
Collegiate recovery programs eliminate the need for that difficult choice, helping students pursue their education and sustain their recovery simultaneously by creating an environment that is not abstinence-hostile and instead validates and supports substance-free college life.”
After starting GW’s first program, Rabolt stayed on for graduate school and interned in the Obama White House at the National Drug Control Policy office.
He became involved in ARHE as a student board member. After working as a consultant, he became part of its leadership team.
Thanks to Rabolt and his colleagues, there are now over 200 schools that have student recovery programs ranging from 12-step meetings and sober housing to comprehensive recovery centers like that at Texas Tech.
Of Texas Tech’s Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities, Rabolt says, “This is a massive program with over 120 students that is woven into the fabric of the school.”
This year’s conference, which is in conjunction with the national conferences for the Association of Recovery Schools (ARS) and the Association of Alternative Peer Groups (AAPG), takes place from June 29th to July 2nd and will include nearly 1,000 attendees, most of whom are collegiate recovery staff, students in recovery, treatment providers, community members, families, and advocates.
A special awards ceremony will take place at Fenway Park on Sunday, June 30th.
For more information, go to collegiaterecovery.org/Boston