September is National Recovery Month

On August 31, 2021, the White House officially released their proclamation that September is National Recovery month. This month is a great time to hold space for someone you know in recovery. Whether your loved one is in long term recovery of over 30 years, or has been in recovery for 30 days, it is a monumental success that deserves great recognition.

People in recovery may have experienced significant hurdles in the past year and a half due to the pandemic. From lockdown orders to political and social turmoil, there are many stressors and potential triggers that can send someone working so hard, into a state of despair and struggle. This September, we celebrate everyone in recovery, and those who are gaining the momentum to get there soon.

Here are simple reminders for how you can support someone you know who is in recovery from a substance use disorder. Practicing active, compassionate listening is a great way to show that you care, and that you are a dependable system of support. Follow this link to learn more about active listening.

Substance Abuse on College Campuses

Is there a culture of substance abuse on American college campuses? If so, what are the risk factors and what can be done to improve the health and well-being of this population of emerging adults? A 2019 study attempts to unpack these issues. The study identifies a number of risk factors for substance use among college students: low perception of harm, peer influences, college being a “time of transition” in one’s life, poor academic performance, binge drinking, and membership in a fraternity or sorority.

Unfortunately, alcohol and drug use is also a predictor of increased risk for both committing and experiencing sexual assault on college campuses. Binge drinking, as well as involvement in fraternities and sororities, are additional risk factors for experiencing a sexual assault.

There may be a need to reduce the harms of substance use in American colleges, especially considering almost half of college students meet the criteria for at least one substance use disorder, and 39 percent of full-time college students report having engaged in binge drinking over the past month.

Campus-wide substance use prevention interventions may help to curb these patterns. Ohio State’s Student Wellness Center has recently launched one such program. The program, called Beyond Your Own Buzz, focuses on facilitating students’ reframing of their alcohol and drug use. Its goal is not to force students to abstain from using drugs and alcohol, but rather to help individuals establish a healthier relationship with their substance use. With an emphasis on harm reduction, Beyond Your Own Buzz provides a space for students to mutually support one another and set their own substance use goals.

Though meetings have halted with the end of spring semester, they will begin again in the fall. Meetings take place every Thursday from 5:30pm to 6:30pm on Zoom. Here is a link to the Zoom meeting. There is no need to sign up and students are encouraged to drop in as they see fit.

Ohio State also provides mental health services to currently-enrolled students, as well as spouses and partners of students covered by Ohio State student health insurance. For more information, please visit the Counseling and Consultation Service (CCS) website or call 614-292-5766.

Quick Response Teams are Valuable Assets to Communities

Quick Response Teams (QRT) are interdisciplinary overdose response teams comprised of law enforcement, EMS, peer recovery mentors and counseling staff who collaborate to provide outreach and education to individuals and families following an overdose. The ECI team had an opportunity to interview Danielle Ratcliff, CEO of R.E.A.C.H. for Tomorrow, and Creed Culbreath, Collaboration Director of R.E.A.C.H. for Tomorrow, about Highland County’s QRT.

Culbreath described how the Highland County QRT had a unique approach from the start, as it went above and beyond overdose response. Culbreath discussed how “our current care coordinator does [go on deployments] which is nice because we can often arrange treatment in real-time in the person’s home. We can often leave with them set up with their first appointment or assessment. We do follow-up, we offer multiple other services [such as connection to Medicaid, childcare, job services, etc.], that I think originally differentiated us from a lot of [other] QRT.”  He also described how the importance of using screening tools such as “screen[ing] for their [the individual who experienced an overdose] nutrition, their physical health.”

Both Culbreath and Ratcliff emphasized the connection between trauma and addiction. Culbreath reported, “one thing that’s been a differentiator for us from the start, we screen for trauma, childhood and early adult, as a driver of addiction – also human trafficking.” Ratcliff also said, “we realized we’ve got to address trauma, we can’t just address mental health [or addiction] because they all overlap. R.E.A.C.H wants to reach that need.”

The Highland County QRT also recognizes the importance of diversity on their team, as Culbreath stated, “we always try to have men and women [on the QRT], we wanted to have [individuals of] different races and ethnicities, so that no matter who we went to see, they could at least identify with one person on the team. We were able to build a team that was representative of everybody in the community.”

Finally, both Culbreath and Ratcliff processed the meaning they find in their work. Ratcliff acknowledged the reward that comes with working to empower the community, “when people get the ‘aha’ and then they are willing to back it up with their time to create change in their community.” Culbreath reported one of the most impactful parts of the job is the grateful comments he receives from others, as “the feedback is what keeps us going.” He recounted appreciate comments from family members whose loved ones received services from the QRT such as, “I struggled for years alone trying to find the right place for my son – nothing seemed to work, and you all took the time to listen and see what his or her needs really were and connect him with therapists. And now I feel like I’ve got this person back in my life.”