Oct. 5, 2022

UCalgary to lead development of provincial post-secondary Recovery on Campus program

$500,000 Alberta government grant will grow campus recovery model province-wide
ROC team and Andrew Szeto - grant announcement
Zoltan Varadi, University of Calgary

Everyone deserves the opportunity to pursue recovery. That's the belief and focus of a new Alberta government-funded and University of Calgary-driven initiative that aims to support individuals with addiction and mental health challenges through a recovery-oriented system of care.

It is estimated that more than 20 per cent of people attending post-secondary institutions experience problematic substance use. That’s not even taking into consideration the rise and severity of substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic. With funding and support from the Government of Alberta, more recovery services are being developed for all campus members.

  • Photo above: Campus Mental Health Strategy's Andrew Szeto, back row, centre, with Recovery on Campus Alberta team. Back row, from left: Noor Hadad, Victoria Burns. Front row, from left: Lisa Garneau, Chelsie Graham, Yasmeen Nosshi.

In partnership with UCalgary’s Campus Mental Health Strategy (CMHS), Student Wellness Services and the Faculty of Social Work, the UCalgary Recovery Community (UCRC) has created Recovery on Campus (ROC) Alberta, a peer-driven organization committed to normalizing and celebrating all pathways of recovery through housing, peer support, social activities, awards and education across all 26 post-secondary institutions in Alberta. ROC aims to change the conversation around recovery so that campus members no longer suffer in silence.

These communities will support students, faculty and staff who are in recovery and those seeking or curious about recovery. They will be modelled from the Collegiate Recovery Program first established in the United States in the 1970s.

Building campus-recovery communities

ROC Alberta aims to be a hub that will provide ongoing support, tools and training to help create and sustain campus recovery communities throughout the province. ROC will also provide a province-wide peer-support program to reduce stigma, while fostering connection and community.

“One of the issues students, faculty, and staff encounter is a lack of connection with peers,” says Dr. Victoria Burns, PhD, associate professor with the Faculty of Social Work. Burns began her own recovery journey as a student and is director of both ROC Alberta and UCRC.

“Universities are known to be recovery-threatening environments; campus members who are struggling or in recovery face stigma and isolation,” she says. This lack of connection isn’t good for personal wellness or academic success, as students have been known to leave their studies early due to substance-use difficulties.

Recovery on Campus Alberta grant

Thanks to the Alberta government’s $500,000 grant, throughout the 2022/23 academic year, the ROC Alberta team will develop and provide post-secondary institutions across Alberta with the following resources:

  • ROC startup tool kits; including $3,000 in seed money for special events/campaigns for each institution
  • A $50,000 award fund for campus members in recovery
  • A plan for recovery housing  
  • Evidence-based, no-cost Recovery 101 training
  • Virtual province-wide peer-support meetings for students, faculty/staff and family members/friends
  • Virtual ‘ROC-Talks’ webinars and end-of-project symposium
  • Opportunities to participate in recovery-oriented research

“We recognize the importance and impact of substance use on our campus,” says Dr. Andrew Szeto, PhD, CMHS director and an associate professor in the Faculty of Arts’ Department of Psychology.

UCalgary prioritizes education, prevention and recovery supports through already established resources and workshops at UCalgary, including the UCalgary Recovery Community.

The UCRC, an example of the type of peer-driven recovery communities ROC Alberta hopes to champion across Alberta, was piloted by Burns and her team in 2021, and has already received a three-year Students’ Union Quality Money grant.

“These resources, coupled with our collective vision of creating a caring community through the Campus Mental Health Strategy, makes us well-positioned to lead the development of ROC Alberta,” says Szeto.

Every Albertan deserves an opportunity to pursue ways to recover from addiction, says Mike Ellis, provincial associate minister of mental health and addiction. "Recovery is possible, on- and off-campus, and we’re proud to support an innovative project that will connect others in recovery to build a sense of community in a shared pursuit of recovery.”

Stay informed about ROC Alberta and UCalgary’s own recovery community, UCRC, including the latest news, support services and events. Also, in conjunction with Recovery Month, observed in September, the UCRC is offering no-cost activities over the semester, beginning this month.

UCalgary’s Campus Mental Health Strategy is a bold commitment to the importance of mental health and the well-being of our university family. Our vision is to be a community where we care for each other, learn and talk about mental health and well-being, receive support as needed, and individually and collectively realize our full potential.