Bluefield Recovery offers UNC, Duke students drug-, alcohol-free housing

tgrubb@newsobserver.comDecember 16, 2013 

  • Addiction stats

    • 28 percent to 30 percent of the general population sometimes drinks at rates that risk alcohol dependence

    • 45 percent of college students report high-risk drinking, 15 percent higher than the general public

    • 8 percent to 10 percent of those who drink heavily may develop alcoholism or addiction during their lifetime

    • The highest percentage of newly diagnosed alcoholics and addicts is in the 18- to 25-year-old range, or college age.

    • 30 percent to 40 percent of students report having academic problems related to heavy alcohol use

    • 15 percent to 30 percent of students may temporarily or permanently drop out of college because of heavy drinking

— Staying on the road to recovery is a challenging journey for college students addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Bluefield Recovery Center, a new residential program located at 916 W. Trinity Ave. near Duke’s East Campus, is working with both Duke and UNC to offer students a safe, supportive place for maintaining their sobriety, finding new friends and graduating from college.

Students can apply after completing a treatment program and joining a 12-step group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. It’s important to want to succeed, program director Becky Georgi said.

“Even though it may have been a difficult journey and a painful struggle, and maybe not that much fun to make the decision to come here, with some level of willingness, openness and gratitude, I think we’ve got a good shot at being able to help,” she said.

The center opened in July in a renovated condo building to offer up to 12 students 24-hour supervision and academic structure. The late opening meant few residents this semester, but more are expected in the spring, Georgi said.

Bluefield contacted them about working together, said Sue Wasiolek, Duke’s assistant vice president for Student Affairs. While student drinking has changed in the last 40 years, with many abstaining or being “responsible social drinkers,” the big concern remains alcohol abuse, she said.

National data show roughly one in four college students report academic problems, even dropping out, because of drug or alcohol use.

But only about 5 percent of alcohol- or drug-addicted students seek help, usually because they don’t think addiction will happen to them or they don’t want people to find out, said Dean Blackburn, associate dean of students and director of UNC’s Student Wellness.

“We are trying to raise awareness on campus at UNC-CH about what addiction is and isn’t, and that the university supports students suffering from substance abuse seeking out the support and help they may need,” he said.

On and off campus

Most colleges also offer levels of on- and off-campus services, from early prevention information to a growing number of recovery and support programs working with local and long-distance partners. Incoming students at both universities are required to complete AlcoholEdu, an anonymous self-assessment that teaches them about drinking, drugs and the dangers of both.

Like Bluefield, the national Oxford House group offers recovering students a drug-free home. There are more than two dozen Oxford Houses in Orange and Durham County neighborhoods, where six to 15 residents split the bills, choose their new roommates and help each other stay sober.

Bluefield is different because a 24-hour support team guides each student through an individualized, post-treatment recovery, Georgi said.

Residents stay for nine months to two years. The six-person staff includes a recovery coach who goes over assignments every day and makes sure everything’s going well, she said. Parents get regular updates and play a vital role, she said.

The center provides transportation, breakfast and weekly community meals. At midnight, the doors are locked and computers collected so everyone can get a good night’s sleep.

It’s an investment at $3,000 to $3,500 a month, but the program is seeking grants and working with the colleges to find scholarship funding, she said. It is also working with N.C. State University to develop a model in Raleigh, she said.

The program offers students a supportive way to find their focus and start living in the present, Georgi said.

“To me, it’s just that breath and spirit that helps people be in touch with who they are and what they’re here to do,” she said. “To explore that is really an important part of living life wholistically and looking at all aspects of our life.”

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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