The Connecticut Alcohol and Drug Policy Council met on June 20 and voted on several actions designed to promote harm reduction and support substance abuse recovery on college campuses.
The council is a legislatively mandated body that includes representatives from all three branches of state government, as well as consumer and advocacy groups, individuals in recovery, and other stakeholders. It is charged with “developing recommendations to address substance-use related priorities from all State agencies on behalf of Connecticut’s citizens.”
The council’s Recovery and Health Subcommittee brought forward two recommendations, the first to convene a Recovery Friendly Campus and School Workgroup of the Recovery and Health Management Subcommittee, which will “research and develop programming and policy recommendations to increase the capacity of institutions of higher education to support the growing needs of students and faculty/staff members seeking recovery and/or harm reduction resources and supports.”
The second recommendation would allow the subcommittee to develop and disseminate a Recovery Friendly Campus toolkit for institutions of higher education to “complete an internal assessment of their capacity to support the growing needs of students and faculty/staff seeking recovery and/or harm reduction resources.”
The meeting was held via Microsoft Teams and votes were recorded through the platform’s chat feature but were not tallied and announced during the meeting.
Subcommittee co-chair Patricia Mulready spoke about the initiatives during the meeting, noting that the recommendations were long-term projects that would take more than six months to implement. Mulready also stated that the subcommittee had plans to identify and recruit partner institutions, workgroup participants, and other stakeholders to help with the initiatives and that these plans were already in progress.
She also noted that the subcommittee would present the toolkit to the full council for review and approval upon its completion.
During the meeting, Mulready also reviewed a policy brief on the subcommittee’s “Recovery Friendly Campuses for Connecticut” initiative, which she stated is a long-standing project.
According to the brief, the program was created by the subcommittee in 2019 to “create a program to inspire Connecticut towns/cities to build recovery friendly communities.” Mulready noted that the subcommittee soon realized that college campuses are a different type of community, and one which she says has a high amount of substance abuse and mental health needs, but that “very little” exists in terms of collegiate recovery support programs.
According to the subcommittee’s policy brief, half a million college students identify as being in recovery from either alcohol or drug use and 30.4 percent of college students have received either psychological or mental health services within the past year. Data from 2020 cited in the policy brief states that 7.5 percent of youth aged 12 to 17 in Connecticut identified as having a substance abuse disorder within the past year, and 15.6 percent of youth in the same age demographic identified as having a major depressive episode in the same time period. Despite this, the policy brief states less than 5 percent of colleges across the country offer recovery support.
The policy brief says the first step to increasing support on college campuses is to “gather a community of peers and allies as well as trained and committed health professionals, staff and faculty.”
“The work group will use a suggested assessment to conduct a thoughtful, transparent look at the existing culture, and current practices. The group will then create a plan to close gaps, and deliver on it.” the policy brief states.
According to the policy brief, the group will know a recovery friendly campus when “students are comfortable asking for help instead of feeling stigmatized”, when students and faculty “intervene with empathy when they encounter someone struggling,” and when “recovery is understood, respected, and celebrated.”