VT, RU among eight state schools awarded grants for substance use recovery programs

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Gov. Ralph Northam announced this week that the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) has awarded $675,000 of federal State Opioid Response (SOR) grant funding to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to help expand substance use recovery programs at eight universities across the state.

The participating schools are Longwood University, Radford University, University of Mary Washington, University of Richmond, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Union University and Washington and Lee University.

Young people who are often living away from home for the first time can be particularly vulnerable, and college campuses can be difficult places if you’re trying to avoid drinking or using substances,” said Governor Northam. “Collegiate recovery programs provide critical resources to help students in recovery have a successful college experience and give them the tools they need to be healthy and thriving well beyond graduation.”

A collegiate recovery program (CRP) is an institutionally sanctioned and supported organization that provides a dedicated space and supportive environment for college students who are in recovery from substance use disorders. VCU’s CRP, Rams in Recovery, will serve as a model for and provide guidance and oversight to the eight partner schools as they develop and broaden their on-campus recovery communities.

We had only a couple of students coming in when we started Rams in Recovery, but we saw impacts almost immediately as the university and individual donors invested more in the program,” said Rams in Recovery Program Coordinator Tom Bannard. “Students thrive once you start supporting them in recovery. Their success attracts other struggling students into the program and they motivate other people in recovery to come back to school. It’s a wonderful cycle to watch.”

Federal SOR grants from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provide targeted assistance to states that are battling the ongoing opioid crisis. The Commonwealth has now received SAMHSA grants to combat the opioid epidemic for three consecutive years, totaling nearly $40 million.

Substance use disorder remains one of the most critical issues facing our Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey. “Collegiate recovery programs offer individuals a safe and supportive community that meets them where they are in their recovery, which is crucial to their future success both on campus and off.”

Programs that meet the bio-psycho-social needs of Virginia’s college students are important, as they provide a foundation for students to learn, grow, and complete their degree programs,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “Collegiate recovery programs help create a strong foundation for student success by providing nurturing communities for students as they seek and maintain recovery.”

DBHDS has prioritized collegiate recovery in its use of federal grants aimed at combating the nationwide opioid epidemic,” said Acting DBHDS Commissioner Mira Signer. “This investment will offer a healthy, stable environment for those who need access to on-campus recovery communities. The big-picture payoff is with more security in their substance use recovery, these students will have a better chance of graduating and remaining in recovery well beyond their college years.”

Over the next two years, each of the eight schools will receive support in the manner of site visits, daylong retreats and monthly collaboration calls to help develop the programs and implement programming, expand outreach strategies and coordinate on-campus services. Staff members will be trained to deliver recovery training and will be connected to a national network of collegiate recovery professionals.