“Collegiate Recovery: Engaging the Campus Community in Students’ Recovery Needs” builds on an ongoing collaboration between Ann Cheney, a faculty member at the University of California Riverside (UCR) School of Medicine and Frances Fernandes, co-chair of the UCR Collegiate Recovery Advisory Board. The project team also established new collaborations with student health services and community partners. Building on the Photovoice Project “Behind the Lens: Students Voicing Recovery,” the team will engage stakeholders across the University of California (UC) system, a publicly funded university system with 10 campuses statewide, to address the health needs of students in recovery from alcohol and other drugs (AODs). The Photovoice Project, a participatory action research study on students’ recovery experiences and recovery needs, found that students want and need increased access to student mental health services, counselors who understand their experience, and a supportive campus community. In the field of addiction medicine, it is understood that substance use disorders are chronic and recovery support is necessary and increasingly part of substance abuse services. However, they are not often part of on-campus student health services or wellness programs, which, in part, might be because of a general lack of understanding of best practices in the treatment of college students in recovery from AODs. This is especially problematic given that students work, live, and study in abstinence-hostile campus communities, making it challenging to maintain sobriety.
To address this problem, the project team will engage key stakeholders, including students in recovery, student health and community providers, faculty and staff, and university administration, in several engagement activities. A steering council will offer guidance to the project team and a community engagement workgroup with representation across the UC will lead co-learning activities, including research trainings, webinar and podcast series, and a symposium to increase knowledge and awareness of collegiate recovery and build stakeholder capacity to partner in research. The project team will then engage stakeholders in a process of deliberation to weigh alternate solutions to addressing students’ recovery needs and reach consensus on ideal solutions, which will then inform future patient-centered comparative effectiveness research. The ultimate goals of the project are to deepen understanding of patient experiences around substance use disorders and recovery in campus contexts, increase knowledge of existing research evidence for treating college students in recovery from AODs, and prepare stakeholders to engage in patient-centered research that compares the effectiveness of evidence-based interventions in the treatment of this patient population.