DHHS Supports Students in Recovery from Substance Misuse

Sept. 20, 2019 – For young adults struggling with mental health and substance use disorders, the transition to college can be challenging. To put that into perspective, more than 570,000 people in North Carolina — or 6.3 percent of North Carolinians over age 12 — are living with a substance use disorder. 

The NC Department of Health and Human Service’s Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services (DMH) recognized there is a need to support young adults in their recovery and, beginning in 2015, moved to provide funding for collegiate recovery programs around the state.

“Transitioning to a new environment like college can be hard for anyone and represents an especially vulnerable time for individuals in recovery from substance use disorder, but it’s during those moments where real growth can happen,” said Kody Kinsley, DHHS Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. “Collegiate recovery programs support students to prevent relapses and turn those difficult moments into empowering successes.”

The division initially began using $750,000 in annual Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant funds to offer support to six campuses: University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Chapel Hill, Wilmington, and Greensboro, North Carolina A&T University and East Carolina University. Each campus initially received $125,000 annually to aid education, prevention and recovery efforts. As the pilot programs became more self-sustainable, funds were reallocated to add Appalachian State University, North Carolina State University and North Carolina Central University to the program.

In 2018, each school program offered recovery support services to an average of 26 students. Schools receive funding for educational materials; resources to provide safe sober-support meeting spaces and study sessions; and additional positions, such as a director or program coordinator. The program also added sober activities, such as 5K races, sober tailgates and other experiences to support college life without the experience of substance use. 

Additionally, DMH supports a contracted position to provide training and program guidance to any North Carolina campus interested in starting a collegiate recovery program. The initiatives continue year after year because college simply isn’t recovery-friendly. The possibility of providing recovery programs in high schools is currently being assessed. 

DHHS maintains recovery-related programs to meet people where they are and provides supports to help sustain that journey for long-term success. To obtain more information on establishing a collegiate recovery program, contact Chris Campau, Director of Scholastic Engagement, at ccampau@apnc.org.

Lindsay Saunders