John ThottungalMercury Staff
The threat of abuse of alcohol on college campuses is a very real one. UTD stepped up to tackle this problem when a UT System Regent, the UT Center for Students in Recovery director and a UTD student came together to pitch an idea to the Student Fee Committee, high-ranking university officials and members of the Student Counseling Center last month for a program to help students recovering from drug and alcohol abuse.
The decision was made by the Student Fee Committee to open the center in fall 2014, and active recruiting for staff to begin as early as spring 2014, according to Jim Cannici, director of the Student Counseling Center. He said the center will be on campus, though its exact location is to be determined.
The U.S. Department of Health and Services, a division of the National Institute of Health, stated an increase in driving while intoxicated from 2.3 million to 2.8 million since 1998 in a 2010 report. UTDPD reported a total of 258 drug- and liquor-related offenses on campus from 2009-11, an increase from the 123 such offenses that took place from 2007-09.
All sources point to the strong need for college campuses to intervene with programs in place to help those trying to get out of the habit, be it abuse of alcohol or any other addictive substances such as illegal drugs.
Regent Steve Hicks of the UT System said it was absolutely essential for the presence of a place where students could get together and help each other beat their addiction. Speaking from personal experience, he said that without help and a safe non-judgmental environment, the problems could get worse. Hicks, along with others, has been instrumental in promoting the opening of the first such center at UT Austin.
Ivana Grahovac, the Austin center’s director who at one point went through a similar problem, is a proud survivor and goes out of her way to help other students along with her staff at UT.
“It is important for students to hear and learn of real stories of successful recovery by people who have gone and built their lives successfully and accomplished all their goals,” Grahovac said.
She beat her addiction and volunteered to start a recovery center for fellow students as a college student in Michigan. Her success prompted her recruitment to UT for its program. Hicks, meanwhile, is happily married with children and has won many awards in the radio and television industry.
The new center at UTD will provide a safe environment for individuals to participate in many structured group activities, share their experiences and help each other through the process, Cannici said. But the center will not be providing individual counseling, as that will be handled by the Student Counseling Center and also by professional community clinics in the area, he said.