Michigan State University is the first in Michigan to provide on-campus housing to students in recovery from substance use disorders, as it continues to expand student health and wellness services.
Currently, 1,534 students, or 3.2 percent of those enrolled at MSU, identify themselves as being in recovery. On-campus housing provides an important resource because college stresses can threaten the recovery process, said Dennis Martell, director of MSU’s Health Promotion department.
“Students no longer have to choose between recovery and their education,” he said. “Recovery housing through our Collegiate Recovery Community offers a safe, supportive environment where students can have a real college experience without alcohol or drugs. They form meaningful relationships based on sobriety, friendship and academic success.”
And they do succeed. There’s a misconception that students with substance dependencies won’t be successful, said Dawn Kepler, Collegiate Recovery Community, or CRC, coordinator.
“At MSU, CRC students are some of the most successful, with 81 percent reporting a cumulative GPA above 3.0 and 33 percent reporting a GPA of 3.5 or above,” Kepler said. “Our program helps students succeed by providing individualized recovery planning, 24/7 student lounge space, support and accountability from staff and peers, sober social events, community service opportunities, as well as wellness and life skills workshops.”
Students who are members of the CRC and identify as being in recovery must abstain from drugs and alcohol to be eligible to live in recovery housing, which is located in a North Neighborhood residence hall. A resident assistant, an intercultural aid and a peer recovery specialist live in the residence hall with them to offer support.
Will Vaughn, a senior studying secondary education living in recovery housing, said he’s met an amazing group of friends who are the foundation of his recovery.
“My track record shows I cannot recover alone, so when coming to MSU, I knew I needed a support system,” he said. “To all those thinking about the CRC, you are welcome here no matter what your background, status, opinions, faults or philosophies. You belong and you can recover and live a wonderful, fulfilling life free from substances.”
As the use of prescription drugs for non-medical purposes has escalated across the nation and among young adults in the general population, it’s rarer among college students. At MSU, it’s estimated 12.9 percent of students use prescription drugs for non-medical purposes, which is on par with the national average.
Nationally, almost 60 percent of college students ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month, as reported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Twenty-nine percent of MSU students don’t drink or do so infrequently, and the percentage who reported not drinking the previous month has increased by 37 percent since 2000, according to the National College Health Assessment 2018 State of Spartan Health report.
“The data shows that our continued efforts to reduce the number of students who report engaging in high-risk drinking have been successful,” Martell said. “As more and more students enter recovery, we need support systems like recovery housing in place to help them flourish personally, civically and academically. We know our students are capable of making wise, well-informed decisions about alcohol and drugs when provided the information, education and support necessary to do so.”
Part of MSU’s Department of Health Promotion and Primary Prevention, the CRC’s mission is to provide a safe and supportive campus community in which students in recovery from addiction can achieve their academic, personal and professional goals. The department is part of MSU’s Office of Health Affairs, which was created to increase safety and quality practices across all of MSU’s health care services. Those include student health and wellness, athletic medicine, MSU Health Care and all clinical activities for the colleges of Human Medicine, Nursing and Osteopathic Medicine.