BH TIG Week: Conducting an Environmental Scan of Collegiate Recovery Programs in Washington State by Jennifer Battis and Kathleen Ferreira

Hello! Our names are Jennifer Battis and Kathleen Ferreira, evaluators and researchers at C4 Innovations. Over the past 6 months, we had the opportunity to collaborate with Washington State University (WSU) to conduct an environmental scan of the State of Washington’s collegiate recovery programs. What is collegiate recovery and why is it important?

Collegiate recovery supports are relatively new, with the first known collegiate recovery community established at Brown University in the late 1970s. With the convergence of Alexandre Laudet’s research (2011-2014), the early formation of the Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE), and the 2012 initiation of Transforming Youth Recovery’s national seed grant program, collegiate recovery has expanded. This expansion has created discordance in the field regarding how collegiate recovery is defined and operationalized. Collegiate recovery supports can vary dramatically in the types of services and supports they provide to students and how they function. For our environmental scan we definedcollegiate recovery support as services and/or programs that provide support to students in higher education who are in or seeking recovery from substance use disorders and/or co-occurring disorders. For these students, collegiate recovery supports are critical for a successful transition to college and positive academic and behavioral outcomes.

Ongoing development of collegiate recovery offered WSU and C4 an exciting opportunity to expand upon the existing knowledge base during a multi-year project that began with an environmental scan. The work will continue with an outcome evaluation with collegiate recovery seed grantees in the State of Washington. The environmental scan included a comprehensive literature review of collegiate recovery services and supports; a policy review that spans federal, state, and institution of higher education (IHE) levels; a survey to IHE staff/faculty, and semi-structured qualitative interviews with various collegiate recovery support. We aimed to answer three core questions:

  1. What collegiate recovery supports (including collegiate recovery programs and communities) are currently available across the State of Washington and how are they linked to academic services within institutions of higher education?
  2. What is the relationship between community recovery supports, recovery high schools, and institutions of higher education collegiate recovery program recruitment and retention services?
  3. What funding is available at the state and federal levels to support the development and sustainability of higher education collegiate recovery programs? In what ways do funding sources differ in their requirements or priorities (including the availability of one-time or ongoing funding opportunities)?

Lessons Learned: (so far!)

Our environmental scan is providing some important initial lessons learned, which we continue to explore:

  • Pathways to and navigation through collegiate recovery supports are often not clearly understood (e.g., referral processes and funding for students to appropriate supports as they transition from high school to IHEs or from IHEs to community services and back).
  • Students need access to a full continuum of services covering the spectrum from prevention through sustained recovery; yet, there are gaps in available services, and services offered are often not what students need or request.
  • Buy-in from all levels, including state policy makers, institutional administrators, staff and faculty, and students is key to a strong, sustainable collegiate recovery program.
  • Many practices are not codified as policies at the IHE level; many federal- and state-level policies are outdated or need to be reviewed and revised.

We provided only a snapshot of some findings to date that we will share in our full report. To learn more, keep an eye out on WSU’s website. Our collaboration will continue throughout 2021-2022, and we thank our phenomenal partners, Patricia Maarhuis, PhD and her team at Cougar Health Services, WSU!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Behavioral Health (BH) TIG Week with our colleagues in Behavioral Health Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our BH TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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