Most collegiate recovery programs provide 12-step meetings, therapy, peer-support groups and sometimes on-campus recovery housing.
When Lisa Laitman was hired by Rutgers University in 1983, she was the only alcohol and drug counselor for 50,000 students on three campuses.
Five years later, Laitman helped establish Rutgers Recovery Housing, the first on-campus residential recovery program in the United States.
“These were issues that were not necessarily talked about at this time,” Laitman said. “Even when it was, people didn’t really think it was that serious.”
Robert Ashford, a master’s student in the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, said 170 collegiate recovery programs have been started since the founding of Rutgers’ recovery house.
–Jimmy Hatzell, person in long-term recovery
Jimmy Hatzell, a person in long-term recovery, said collegiate recovery services taught him recovery is possible for young people.
“I found out recovery was cool,” Hatzell said. “It’s something people don’t talk about a lot. For me, the fact that being in recovery could be cool was important to me.”
Hatzell attended Pennsylvania State University and helped create The ROAR House, the university’s collegiate recovery residence hall, in 2015. The house provides on-campus, sober housing and is a part of Penn State’s Collegiate Recovery Community, which was founded in 2011 to support students in recovery.
Penn State and Carnegie Mellon University have a Collegiate Recovery Program registered with the Association of Recovery in Higher Education, which supports a large portion of collegiate recovery programs in the United States. Slippery Rock University and the University of Pittsburgh are working to create collegiate recovery programs in the future, according to AHRE’s website.
Other Pennsylvania schools do not have ARHE-certified programs, but still offer support for students in recovery with resources like recovery housing, group therapy, individual therapy, psychiatry, case management and 12-step meetings.
Temple University Student Government’s legislative branch, Parliament, unanimously passed a recovery housing bill in April 2017, which asked university administrators to explore options for collegiate recovery housing.
Temple student and junior class Parliament representative George Basile — whose father is in recovery — proposed the bill in February.
Jeffrey Goetz, a Temple student, started a student-run 12-step group on campus. He said when he first came to college, he thought he could maintain the same social life he had before he entered recovery.
Hayden, who asked to withhold his last name because of the stigma surrounding addiction, said he used to attend off-campus 12-step meetings, but he prefers the on-campus group because it is easier to relate to his fellow students.
“12-step members come from all walks of life which is awesome in some respects, but I like it here because it’s other students,” Hayden said. “That was one thing I was hungry for, especially after coming back to school.”
Hayden said students in recovery often feel like the typical college experience is unattainable for them. While most students often attend parties or go out to bars, students in recovery struggle to socialize without compromising their recovery, he added.
“I thought I was going to go out to parties sober,” Goetz added. “But it’s just not enticing, like it’s not fun. So yeah, it is hard to make friends at first.”
Goetz said his social life improved when he became closer with the people who attended his 12-step meetings.
Elana Goldmintz-Gotfried, the coordinator of Temple’s Campus Alcohol & Substance Awareness Unit, provides individual and group therapy and case management for students with substance use disorder. She said recovery housing at Temple would be “a piece of a larger picture.”
“I think that it is definitely a piece of the puzzle of what would be supportive of students on campus,” she said. “But I don’t think that it’s the only solution.”
Goldmintz-Gotfried said the university should also establish a sober, safe space for students in recovery to use for meetings, studying and peer support.
“As students come forward and express these needs, I think it starts to open up conversations that are really exciting and hold a lot of potential.” Goldmintz-Gotfried said. “In terms of short-term goals and long-term goals, we will keep working to see what we can do.”