Helping Students in Recovery Manage the Challenges of College

By: Jessica Miller, Program Manager, Ten16

Pursuing a degree in higher education is an exciting time in a person’s life filled with hopes and dreams for a better future. For many traditional age students “going off” to college means independence and autonomy from any structure they’ve had for the last eighteen years. Other students begin or return to college more established in life, balancing the demands of coursework with responsibilities of career and family. Regardless of age and status in life, all students set a goal, an intention of successfully completing their degree requirements and ultimately graduating.

For students in recovery from substance use disorders the goal includes maintaining their recovery while trying to have a positive college experience. College campuses tend to be among the most recovery-hostile environments; increased access and availability of alcohol and other drugs combined with societal norms of college life, and lack of supports for recovery leave this group of students vulnerable to a return to use and stopping-out.

The Central Michigan Collegiate Recovery, Education and Wellness (CMCREW) program exists to create a community of support for these students, so they don’t have to choose between earning a degree or maintaining their recovery. Managed through a partnership with Ten16, support is available to students at Central Michigan University, Ferris State University and Mid-Michigan College through funding provided by the Jamie Daniels Foundation and The Children’s Foundation.

Students don’t set out with an intention of developing a substance use disorder, it’s not a choice one makes. Unfortunately, experimentation with substances and underage drinking is not new to young adults. What we are seeing now is the new ways in which students are obtaining substances. The pandemic created opportunities for curbside alcohol pick-up and cocktails to go from restaurants and home delivery of cannabis with high levels of THC. Fortunately, students experiencing negative personal and academic consequences of their use can benefit from early intervention utilizing motivational interviewing, which is what we provide through Coaching at no cost for students in or seeking recovery.

Often, students presenting with anxiety and depression also report substance use issues. Students who need substance use counseling often have barriers to accessing services. One of these barriers is often health care coverage. Many students, under the age of 26, are still covered under their parents’ policies and do not want them to find out they are receiving Counseling. In addition to confidentiality concerns, insurance policies can come with high deductibles and co-pays students are unable to pay.

Using the grant funds received from the Jamie Daniels Foundation, CMCREW plans to offer dedicated substance use disorder counseling for students in or seeking recovery free of charge. With this addition, we hope to remove the barrier of health care costs for any student seeking help with substance use disorder.