The Campus Office for Substance Abuse Prevention, or COSAP, at the University of New Mexico is working to make campus a more welcoming place for students recovering from drug or alcohol abuse.
The “Students in Recovery” effort is something that’s been sought after for years at UNM, but recently got a big boost after COSAP received a $10,000 grant from Transforming Youth Recovery, a national nonprofit founded in 2013.
“They’re trying to get schools who are interested, as we are, to set up those networks and put together some resources to enable universities to become a bona fide ‘recovery school,’” said John Steiner, COSAP’s program manager.
Steiner said there’s no exact definition for what makes a university an official ‘recovery school,’ rather, it’s about having programs in place for students in recovery and providing a welcoming atmosphere for them to continue their sobriety.
“I think it’s really important for students in recovery to be able to meet other students in recovery so they know they’re not alone in this whole process.” --Michele Cruz, COSAP
Many times, students have already gone through the recovery process by the time they get to college, Steiner said. And because of peer pressures and newfound freedom, college can be an uncomfortable place for some recovering students.
“We want to put some things in place to make it less uncomfortable, and more welcoming, and more supportive to those students,” Steiner said.
Annual research done by COSAP shows there are hundreds of students at UNM who identify as being in recovery. Some of them are traditional students coming in as teenagers, and others are non-traditional students who chose to return to college later in life. Regardless of their background though, COSAP wants to provide those students a place for them to interact with others they can relate to.
Michele Cruz is the marketing assistant for COSAP and coordinates the project’s various initiatives. Some of those initiatives include communicating the benefits of the project to the campus community, collecting input from students in recovery to inform the project’s direction, and working to establish a drop-in space for students in recovery. Right now, the space is open from noon to 2 p.m., Mondays at Logan Hall Room 110, and Thursdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Mesa Vista Hall room 3058. Cruz said she hopes to expand the forum to be open every day.
“I think it’s really important for students in recovery to be able to meet other students in recovery so they know they’re not alone in this whole process,” said Cruz, who is also a UNM alumna. “I am proud that we are able to provide this space.”
And COSAP hopes to do more in the future. They’re currently holding focus groups with recovering students to ask them directly about their wants and needs. Organizers hope to one day see a chartered, student run organization dedicated to this group.
“We’re excited about the prospects,” said Steiner. “And we feel passionate about the whole project, so hopefully we’ll see some good things in the near future.”
COSAP was established at UNM in 1992 and has been a part of the university’s Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Addictions (CASAA) since it opened. The program helps ensure UNM’s compliance with federal regulations related to substance abuse and helps develop prevention and education programs for the university community.