Katie Hollowell, Contributing Writer
Giving those in need a “safe place” is the most important aspect of developing substance use recovery programs, said Rams in Recovery members as it was announced their program would be modeled at eight Virginia colleges beginning this year, thanks to $675,000 in grant money.
VCU’s Rams in Recovery is being allocated more state funding due to the opioid epidemic. About 1,500 people died last year from drug overdoses in Virginia according to the Virginia Department of Health. Addiction and the opioid epidemic have become the state’s largest challenges, Gov. Ralph Northam told the Richmond-Times Dispatch.
The grant will cover two years of support through site visits, daylong retreats and monthly calls “to help implement programming and outreach strategies and coordinate on-campus services,” said a VCU news release.
VCU’s Rams in Recovery received the grant money from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. It was first announced by Northam on Oct. 31.
“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,” Northam said in a news release. “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.”
The eight other schools that will receive a portion of the grant money and mentorship from Rams in Recovery staffers over the next two years 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.
Rams in Recovery hired an assistant program coordinator, Lauren Powell, with the grant in order to maintain consistent support for Rams in Recovery members, since program coordinator Tom Bannard will be traveling frequently to mentor colleges across the state.
Powell said Rams in Recovery hopes to continue increasing its accessibility by considering intersectionality and underrepresented populations, such as racial minorities. The grant will include ally trainings across the state for people who want better knowledge about what to say and do to help a person in recovery.
“Just a little tweak of language here and there, like ‘person in recovery,’ rather than ‘addict’ or ‘alcoholic,’” Powell said. “If this new language helps people talk about it and say look, ‘I’m recovering’ and gets the conversation going, it’s a definite impactful way to be on the front lines of trying to stop this awful epidemic that’s happening with opioids and addiction in general.”
Rams in Recovery member and social work major Shauntelle Hammond said having the recovery support at the on-campus house personally helped her.
“That’s a very big thing for myself personally is having that recovery support,” Hammond said. “Having a community, being able to go to meetings on campus and in between classes with having a safe place to go when I need some help.”
Hammond says every person in recovery has different needs, which will depend on each college. She said it would be difficult for Rams in Recovery to replicate everything, and different programs would be more beneficial depending on the campus.
There is a constant need for naloxone training courses in every college recovery program, Hammond said. That way, people are aware of opioid overdoses and how to reverse them.
“[It’s important to] have people prepared, to help them react in that situation if they need to,” Hammond said.