For college students in recovery, ‘you need support where you exist’

Jimmy Hatzell (left) and Robert Ashford. (Photo by Albert Hong)
Jimmy Hatzell (left) and Robert Ashford. (Photo by Albert Hong)

When Jimmy Hatzell was recovering with a substance abuse disorder at Penn State University, the collegiate recovery services available to him not only allowed him to stay in school but even helped him to identify himself as a student in recovery.

Now as a person in long term recovery from late 2013, Hatzell acts as chief technology officer at Life of Purpose Treatment, a Florida-based organization working to bring primary care treatment to college campuses nationwide, to continue the effort in helping other students in college come to terms with their disorders.

He and Robert Ashford, the founding program director of the University of North Texas Collegiate Program (the first of its kind) who is also pursuing a Master of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania, spoke with the Covering Addiction class at Temple University about the importance and need for collegiate recovery programs (CRP) on all college campuses. A CRP can be described as a program that meshes a recovery lifestyle with the collegiate lifestyle to help students find success emotionally, physically and mentally.

Ashford actually explained how Pennsylvania has the best potential right now for growth in this area of recovery but ironically enough, he was speaking to students at a university that had no such CRP in effect. Temple is actually one of the few colleges in the Philadelphia area that lacks a CRP — schools like Saint Joseph’s University, Community College of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University and more all have some kind of CRP implemented within the universities. But Ashford explained how there are at least four groups on Temple’s campus currently working to introduce CRPs, like with George Basile, a junior class representative in Temple’s student Parliament who proposed bringing recovery housing to the campus (an effort that was sparked by reporting from our very own Meghan Costa!).

Ashford said that an estimated 17,020 students currently enrolled at Temple could directly benefit from a CRP and any related services.

“You need support where you exist,” Ashford said.

With what limited research is out there, Ashford made sure to detail the concrete benefits for students who have access to recovery services — increase in academic performance and lower rates of relapse, just to name a couple. Some of the basic services that are key to a CRP include academic advising and mentoring, scholarship assistance, a credits course dealing with something like a recovery seminar and pro-social activities (or “sober fun” as Ashford described it).

Hatzell also emphasized how even if a college has a CRP, it doesn’t matter if that program isn’t able to reach out and effectively impact as many of the students who are dealing with addiction that are out there. He compared the potential issue to how a church could say that it is serving 100 people, when in reality, the real number is a much condensed group of people who are actively participating in the church’s activities every day. But there’s no doubt in Hatzell’s mind that CRPs are a necessity, now more than ever.

“I learned that recovery is possible for a young person like me,” Hatzell said of his time with a CRP in college.

For Ashford, he wasn’t lucky enough to have a CRP when he was in college which is why he has made it his mission to make sure college students today don’t have that “missed opportunity.” It’s proving more difficult than he expected though, as his time currently at the University of Pennsylvania has shown him how the stigma around substance use disorders at the school is “unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

About the author

Albert Hong

Albert Hong is a senior journalism major and digital technologies minor at Temple University. Contact Albert at albert.hong@temple.edu.

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