Today@Sam Article

Grant Provides Funding For Sobriety Support Program

Jan. 14, 2016
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

Students who find themselves struggling with maintaining sobriety while in college will soon have a new outlet through which to seek support, thanks to a $5,000 grant recently awarded to Sam Houston State University’s counseling services.

Counseling Center group
SHSU's Counseling Center offers support groups for various issues. Thanks to a Tranforming Youth Recovery grant, the center has begun developing a program for students who are recovering from substance use disorders. —Photo by Brian Blalock

The funding, from Transforming Youth Recovery, provides SHSU’s Counseling Center with the resources to develop services for students recovering from substance use disorders, according to Debbie O’Donnell, counseling services case manager.

The funds will be used to support the Collegiate Recovery Program, which O’Donnell hopes to have in place by fall, that will allow students to participate in monthly educational meetings on maintaining sobriety, as well as attend bi-weekly support meetings.

O’Donnell began advocating for the program after joining the SHSU staff last February.

“Having worked in the field for 10 years, I understand how mental health and addiction often co-exist,” she said. “Thankfully, the Counseling Center director, Dr. Drew Miller, has allotted time in my schedule to pursue the development of the program. Everyone here at SHSU has fully supported the idea.

“Over the summer I explored additional ways to support our students and learned about Transforming Youth Recovery. They have a very detailed map of developing the program; finding the funding was a bonus,” she said. 

The grant will allow counseling staff to purchase advertising items that will promote participation and awareness; token items, such as a coin, for goals in maintaining sobriety; and provide refreshments during group meetings, alternative activities such as during Spring Break, and, possibly, book scholarships.

While still in the developmental stage, the CRP will not be designed as a treatment program but will be beneficial in preventing relapse, particularly for students who are three months into recovery, according to O’Donnell.

“If someone has been sober for at least three months, they are more likely to remain sober with support,” she said. “Students who do relapse will be required to maintain sobriety for two months before being allowed to rejoin the CRP weekly activities.”

O’Donnell also hopes the resources they will be able to provide through the grant will help others to understand addiction and perhaps alleviate the stigma associated with it. 

“The hope is others with addiction issues who are not currently getting help will be more likely to seek help, and students who do not understand addiction may learn from it,” she said. “We do have a small group of students who are not in recovery but are wanting to help develop the program and promote awareness of the illness.”

After the program is created, the planning committee will decide whether to continue it as staff-run or transition it into a student-run organization.

A nonprofit organization founded in 2013, Transforming Youth Recovery studies the community, educational and peer networks that influence youth development and achievement and provides novel approaches to expand family- and school-based prevention, intervention and recovery-support services. 

For more information, contact O’Donnell at or 936.294.1720.

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