Both Robert Ashford and Jim Hatzell attribute the success in their lives to collegiate recovery programs, which are linked to the lowest rate of relapse of any diversionary program on record. Of the some 5,300 universities operational in the United States today, there are only about 170 noted CRPs in the nation. According to Ashford, about ten percent of Temple University students fall on the spectrum of a Substance Use Disorder from mild to severe levels, which translates to just under 4,000 students. Several CRPs exist in Temple’s vicinity, including St. Joe’s University, Community College of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, the University of the Sciences, the College of New Jersey, and Villanova. Although in varying states of resource allocation, many of these programs have expanded to include spaces on campuses that encourage active engagement within the student recovery community.
“I was able to identify as a student in recovery at Penn State,” Hatzell said of his experience at the Penn State CRP. Beginning with four members, Hatzell said by the time he graduated, membership had exploded to 30. The CRP offers Penn students with mutual aid support, case workers, scholarships, a safe space within the campus, and a peer base of young people in recovery. Hatzell noted that his experience at the CRP allowed him to embrace an identity that empowered him, making him proud to be in open recovery among peers.
Ashford wishes he had been introduced to CRP earlier, looking back on his years of active addiction as a “missed opportunity” during which he could have been living sober. Following a third DUI charge in Texas, Ashford was introduced to an inpatient facility that changed his life and redirected his path towards long-term recovery. Ashford’s mission to introduce a normative college experience to other college students in recovery during his undergraduate degree at the University of North Texas has become the benchmark for his current work at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in social services. “It takes a village to begin a CRP,” Ashford said of the difficulties he currently faces with establishing a CRP at the school. But the need couldn’t be more critical, Ashford asserted, as national overdose rates increase, drugs become more accessible, and academia fails to catch up. “You need support where you exist.”