Treating an alcohol use disorder can be particularly tough when the client is a college student in recovery. Not only is it difficult for these students to stay connected to a recovery program, their temptations to drink are compounded due to the alcohol-accepting atmosphere of college.
UNC Chapel Hill, the oldest State University in the Country, understands this problem and has found innovative solutions to help these students. Serving as the model program for the state of North Carolina and a model for the creation of Collegiate Recovery Programs throughout the UNC system, the Carolina Recovery Program provides an accepting, nurturing community where students in recovery can thrive. This program helps students navigate their transition from treatment back to college in a safe and supportive way. Becky Georgi, of Bluefield Recovery, partners with the Carolina Recovery Program as the case manager to coordinate the recovery plans for the students which UNC has put into place. She oversees the recovery coaches and ensures collaboration among students, recovery coaches, parents, and the Carolina Recovery Program.
One of the difficulties that the Carolina Recovery Program faced was the inability to detect whether or not students were returning to use. Initially, the program used urine tests for documenting sobriety, but found this challenging due the delay in test results and the inconvenience for students. Bluefield chose Soberlink as a technological solution to these barriers.
Soberlink is an FDA 510(k) cleared device that supports accountability for sobriety and long-term recovery through a comprehensive alcohol monitoring system. Combining a professional-grade breathalyzer with wireless connectivity, the portable design and state-of-the art technology includes facial recognition and real-time reporting to designated contacts.
Bluefield Recovery has used Soberlink with clients in their private practice and recognizes Soberlink as a great tool to support abstinence for students in the Carolina Recovery Program. Soberlink’s real-time results allow for greater transparency of the students’ recovery journeys and provide unprecedented opportunities for an early intervention if needed.
Since implementing Soberlink with students, Becky Georgi states, “there is increased involvement, more
communication, and improvement in the relationships with the students and support team. The higher level of monitoring has given us valuable data to help identify recovery challenges. The use of Soberlink gives the clinicians information we need to know if the treatment plan is working or if we need to make adjustments.”
One student, who was at first hesitant to use Soberlink, later decided to monitor not only during school, but also during summertime because it was truly helping him stay abstinent. He has been using Soberlink over the school year and maintaining a solid recovery.
Becky has also seen students help each other get over the fear of being monitored – which can be understandably scary at first. Becky recalls at a group session when, “One student, new to the program, was hesitant to use Soberlink and felt he didn’t need monitoring. Another student who had been using Soberlink for the past 6 months shared his experience and said that he likely wouldn’t be sober without it, and that he would rather be monitored by Soberlink than to drink himself to death.”
Becky Georgi states, “Soberlink interrupts the thought of, “I can have a few drinks tonight, no one will know,” which is a great psychological deterrent. Additionally, Becky says “students appreciate the documentation Soberlink provides. They feel empowered to show their family their Soberlink reports that show they are abstaining from alcohol.”
After a pilot period of student Soberlink usage, the University wanted to assess students’ perspectives of the program as one of their recovery protection resources. The school developed an anonymous survey instrument to allow students to provide feedback and the results indicated both favorable quantitative and qualitative data, some of which is highlighted below.
UNC Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research, and public service. Their mission is to serve as a center for research, scholarship, and creativity and to teach a diverse community of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to become the next generation of leaders.
Collegiate Recovery Program
The Carolina Recovery Program encourages a community that supports continued recovery, academic excellence, and a commitment to serving the greater UNC community. It provides each student with a customized success plan, staff peer support, and proactive recovery focused programing. The goal is to enable students to enjoy a substance-free collegiate experience while excelling at UNC-CH.
Bluefield Recovery Coaching
Bluefield’s mission is to provide a bridge from treatment to successful integration into the collegiate community. Integral to this transition is the emphasis on the wide range of emotional, social, and intellectual skills that lead to successful and meaningful academic achievement. Because recovery touches all aspects of a student’s life, Bluefield provides support for academic advancement, social connection, physical well-being and spiritual growth.