University of Alabama Collegiate Recovery Program Helps Students with Substance Abuse Issues

The program offers several campus events during National Recovery Month every September, including a Run for Recovery and sober tailgates for home Alabama football games. The program offers several campus events during National Recovery Month every September, including a Run for Recovery and sober tailgates for home Alabama football games. Reagan Shaw

A center at the University of Alabama is helping to transform the lives of people dealing with addiction. 

“Our primary focus is for individuals  who are exploring  their relationship with substances, generally speaking it’s for alcohol and drug counseling, but we’re most concerned about helping people explore what the impact of substance use has been on their life and help them make decisions on how they want to move forward,” said Gerard Love, Executive Director of Collegiate Recovery and Intervention Services, or CRIS. 

“We have two different departments which are counseling and interventions services and then a Collegiate Recovery community,” said Love. 

Collegiate Recovery and Intervention Services is a voluntary recovery program for University of Alabama students which includes counseling and intervention services. CRIS offers peer education for students to learn first-hand from students in the recovery program about substance abuse. Outreach programing and 12-step support groups are also open to the wider Tuscaloosa community.

“We believe being out on campus with outreach programs is really important, so people know about substance use disorders and Collegiate Recovery,” said Love. “On our website, we have a fillable form to request our staff members to come and do a presentation which can be for a class or somewhere in the community.” 

Members of CRIS have traveled as far as Mobile and Huntsville and have spoken to over 8000 people about recovery for all different ages, Love added

Many students end up with CRIS from self-referrals and from UA’s Office of Student Conduct. Self-referrals will sometimes come from parents and friends. CRIS mainly sees alcohol and drug abuse but also works with eating disorders as well as other types of addiction. 

“I think the recovery center is an asset to the University,” said Rumor Zacharia, an addiction and recovery studies student. “I do not think that enough people know about the CRIS, which is sad because it’s not only helpful to addicts but it’s also beneficial to students who have a loved one who is going through addiction.” 

CRIS offers family services, which include psychoeducation and relationship skills training. The counseling services offered at CRIS are performed by licensed marriage and family therapy staff. 

“We see students from all different class ranks,” said Love. “They all present with different issues. Freshmen in residence halls is sort of a classic recipe for making a mistake, but usually, we don’t see them unless there is a greater concern for their well-being.” 

Everyone who walks into CRIS is required to sign a confidentiality agreement stating you are to take not video or photography or speak of who or what you observed in the center.  When students are billed from CRIS, it shows up as a student life activity fee to protect the student’s confidentiality. 

“Because we provide drug and alcohol treatment, we are covered under the federal code of regulations specifically under 42CFR, which is a higher level of confidentiality,” said Love. “Much like the privacy when you receive medical treatment.” 

CRIS officially started in 2017 as two different programs on campus. They have now merged together for the benefit of the students. 

“We have new students coming in every day,” said Love. “It’s like the post office, there is always new mail coming in and we are in a college town so it’s not unheard of.” 

CRIS is mainly funded by private donations. The University of Alabama funds salaries for CRIS employees, and lab testing is paid from fees billed to the students. 

“We are constantly forming relationships with our community,” said Love. “Lots of our private donations are from people who have previously struggled with substance addiction.” 

CRIS is located in the South Lawn office building at 1101 Jackson Avenue on the University of Alabama campus. 

“I think this part of campus is so important to our school’s community,” said Lesleigh Murphy, a University of Alabama student. “College is hard, and everyone needs help every now and then.”

For more information, visit the CRIS website at 

Reagan Shaw is a senior at the University of Alabama student studying journalism and theatre. She is originally from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. 

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