GUEST OPINION: Support needed for students in addiction recovery

Over the past few years, Brown County has begun to understand the extent of its students’ addictions. Whether it is meth, heroin, pot, opioids or alcohol, many of our young people are struggling, not just with the usual chaos of adolescence, but to become and remain sober against all odds.

In certain cases, their parents are users. Certainly, their friends are often using. In our county, often our children are traumatized by family circumstances that cause them to seek emotional numbing.

Students caught in this revolving door of sobriety and addiction wonder if there is any hope for their future. They are terrified they will relapse, because every relapse moves them further from a stable adult life.

College is a dream for many of these students. But every college and university environment is challenged by addiction and its accompanying behaviors. The temptations in dorms, fraternities and sororities are around every corner. To a student coming out of high school who has battled addiction for even a short time, college social life can be a disaster waiting to happen.

I first learned about Recovery Campus when I worked in admissions at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Rutgers was one of the first universities to recognize the challenge of addiction and emotional disorders for their students and their campus communities. Together with a handful of other colleges, Rutgers worked to develop programs that meet the growing need for adolescent emotional and sobriety support, and continues to be a leader nationwide in the development of new programs.

Here is their most recent endeavor:

“In response to a growing need to provide specialized treatment for mood disorders and substance abuse, Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care recently opened intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) to provide behavioral health care to specialty populations. Participants attend treatment for three hours a day, three days a week, for up to 12 weeks. ‘This schedule allows someone who … attends school to receive an intensive level of care and still maintain their functioning in the community,’ says Mary-Catherine Bohan, vice president of outpatient services.” (Rutgers Expands Treatment for Substance Abuse and Mood Disorders, by Sonia Buchanan, Recovery Campus.com)

These IOP programs, which often accept public and private sector insurance plans, address the often traumatic underlying reasons for addiction. Participants are evaluated for PTSD and receive psychiatric evaluation and medication management by psychiatry and medical professionals. Many schools offer participants 24/7 crisis management support.

Today, there are 130 colleges and universities throughout the United States that are designated Recovery Campuses. Colleges such as UNC-Chapel Hill, Stonybrook, UT-Austin, USC and Indiana’s own IUPUI offer students opportunities to tackle life, schooling, internships and friendships with profound sober living and social opportunities, peer mentoring and expert therapeutic support.

If your high school or college student has — or had — big post-secondary plans but is struggling with addiction, please visit recoverycampus.com to learn more. While you are there, subscribe to their wonderful quarterly publication that profiles college recovery programs around the country.

Over the years, I have worked on the education side with many recovering students on their rocky path to a college degree and a stable professional life. These students have tremendous success stories.

If you would like more information or guidance about these types of college programs, please contact me at plkrahnke@gmail.com to arrange a conversation. As always, I help Brown County students free of charge.

Patricia L. Krahnke operates PLK College Pathways, 138 S. Jefferson St., Nashville. She can be reached at plkrahnke@gmail.com.