Many colleges and universities devote part of their academic calendar to a high-profile alcohol awareness event. Some campuses feature a prominent recovery community identifiable through recovery housing or a campus center. But how many reinforce student wellness through an entire continuum of support, running the gamut from prevention through recovery?
Leaders at Caron Treatment Centers believe comprehensive programming remains largely absent in college and university settings, and the eastern Pennsylvania treatment organization has taken several actions designed to enhance its outreach to campus communities. Caron recently formed a higher education subcommittee to its treatment committee, and earlier this year a leader with a broad range of experience involving universities was hired to coordinate its higher education outreach.
“Caron is actually in a really unique position, as it has been proactively putting resources behind working with the emerging-adult population,” says Beth DeRicco, PhD, who among her previous roles worked at the U.S. Department of Education's Higher Education Center and for the Governor's Prevention Partnership in Connecticut. The latter organization's mission is to deliver prevention programming that addresses emerging issues facing young people.
Caron has been active in areas such as student assistance programming, and its efforts with university communities will build on the expertise it has gained in treating the college-age population, says DeRicco.
She adds that the question of how Caron best can serve university communities remains to be answered, but her role does not involve filling treatment beds.
In her work at the prevention partnership in Connecticut, DeRicco focused on an effort to convince colleges to use more evidence-based approaches in seeking to stem high-risk substance use and related behaviors. Sponsoring an alcohol awareness week once every academic year simply doesn't accomplish enough, she suggests.
Likewise, being a welcoming community for students already in recovery will only carry a campus community so far if that effort is not matched with sound education, wellness services, prevention, early intervention and treatment for other students who are engaging in risky behaviors, DeRicco says.
“Collegiate recovery is a new 'hot field' for us in higher education,” says DeRicco. “There's a lot of good research that says why it's important. But you also have to look more broadly at the whole continuum.”
In fact, it could be argued that one strong program on campus could essentially fall short of its goals or even be sabotaged if other areas of student need in the continuum of services are being neglected.
“We will help campuses put mechanisms in place for assessment and early detection,” DeRicco says. She adds that in general, “We're not telling people what to do. We're helping people understand how to do it.”
Some of the efforts that have been undertaken at Caron in recent months include a webinar series in September and October that addressed how evolving public policies on marijuana control are affecting the campus environment.
DeRicco also serves as a member of the North American Intra-Fraternity Conference President's Commission on Alcohol Prevention. National fraternities have identified alcohol and violence prevention on campus as issues that demand their concerted attention and commitment, she says.