Tell us briefly about your peer education program.
- UNLV’s recovery efforts include weekly support group meetings (based on 12-step format) for student experiencing recovery, drop-in hours in our Wellness Promotion offices and outreach presentations where students in recovery share their story and experiences. We have presented to Fraternity & Sorority Life, academic classes and conducted programs including, “How To Help A Friend With Addiction”. They are expanding the program to include a support group for friends/family members of addicts and invite speakers from AA and NA to the support group meetings.
How did this project come about?
- In 2012, a student organization was started by students working with a local recovery foundation. UNLV Student Wellness was approached to partner with the student organization for meeting space for support and referrals to campus health and mental health services.
How have you incorporated peer educators into the recovery program?
- The peer educators first became involved with the recovery program when the President asked about alcohol and other drug awareness programming. As they began to learn more about the group and found they fit perfectly on campus as a Peer Education/Advocacy Group. The original advisor took another position and the Assistant Director for Wellness Promotion was asked to step into that role. The President of the organization was interested in CPE Training and felt the group leaders would benefit from it. They have chosen to call themselves peer mentors rather than educators and it fits well!
How does it work? What is the structure/staffing?
- Our recovery group is a registered student organization on campus. Membership is voluntary and open to any student on campus experiencing recovery. They have an elected executive board, staff advisor, but no funding at this time or dedicated safe space for meetings and socializing on campus. The group would like to apply for a Stacie Mathewson Foundation Grant and find other funding sources in the next year to help establish a dedicated space and paid peer mentor positions. They have a dedicated campus email address, webpage and social media networks.
What are some lessons you have learned from doing this work?
- From Starr Wharton, Advisor:
- Addiction touches more lives than we may realize. From my experience, students are likely to know someone who is, or has had, an addiction to alcohol or other drugs (including prescription drugs). They may not know this person is in recovery or even has had the addiction. For those that have dealt with addiction in their personal lives, we want them to know they are not alone and do have support on campus.
- They are dedicated peer advocates who have overcome adversity and want to help their fellow students to do the same. They are inspirational, resilient and have a unique perspective on life that I have learned from and feel others could too.
- Find a dedicated space! While we cannot compare ourselves to other campuses, we know from research and anecdotal evidence a dedicated space, regular meetings and staff support academic performance and personal well-being. Dedicated space is one of the top 3 critical components of successful collegiate recovery programs (Capacity Building for Youth Recovery, Publication 2. Edition 1. 2013. Stacie Mathewson Foundation). A place for students in alcohol and other drug recovery to visit while on campus helps provide a substance-free, safe, comfortable, private space for resources, studying and meetings. This space may be used for impromptu meetings/programs and provide a location where they can support each other through the tough times.
- The idea of peer mentors/educators in addiction recovery (especially substances) is concerning to some mental health communities/providers. Consider your local environment and be prepared to discuss evidence-based practices.
Have you done other evaluation of the program?
- We ask students to evaluate their experience with the group and program evaluations at each presentation/program/event.
What are some suggestions/tips you would give campuses that might like to do something similar?
- Develop relationships with related campus departments/services and community organizations.
- If you choose to partner closely with a community organization, ensure there is a MOU (memorandum of understanding) in place.
- Find a dedicated space, funding and staff support first (including your counseling/mental health department)
- A student-led support group may gain more support than a professional staff-led formal program. Carefully consider your campus climate and environment.
- Use the Transforming Youth Recovery website. It has outstanding resources!