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Students need addictions services geared to their needs, says UWindsor peer support group


A peer support program at the University of Windsor is calling for addictions services and supports to be better geared toward student-age populations.

Lancers Recover is a peer support program for students seeking recovery from substance use and behavioural addictions. It's the first-of-its-kind offered at an Ontario post-secondary institution and the fourth in all of Canada.

On Wednesday, the Lancers Recover team was part of the University of Windsor's inaugural Student Recovery Services Fair, giving students the opportunity to learn more about support programs around the city.

Mack Park, program coordinator for Lancers Recover, said they wanted to get involved with the program because of their own lived experience.

"It took me 10 years total to graduate," said Park. "When I came here for my first year, I was struggling with active substance use addiction and ended up having to drop out."

That was 12 years ago. At the time, Park said, finding a support program that could meet their needs as a student was difficult.

According to Park, the combination of social pressure, cannabis being legalized in recent years, and a "normalization" of substance use at the collegiate level has led to a perfect storm which some students struggle to deal with.

"Often, there's a lot of misunderstanding and stigma around what substance use issues and addiction look like," added Park.

At Brentwood Recovery Home, which offers residential treatment for substance abuse and addiction, executive director Elizabeth Dulmage said admission numbers for clients between the ages of 19 and 34 have not significantly changed in the last four years.

Brentwood Recovery Home in Windsor, Ont. is seen on Sept. 20, 2023. (Sanjay Maru/CTV News Windsor)But, according to Dulmage, that’s likely because a majority of clients spent years trying out other community-based programs before they got older and decided to come to Brentwood in their later years.

"There’s, 100 per cent, no doubt that the stories and needs of people change as they pass through adolescence into young adulthood," said Dulmage, who added addictions treatment is not a "one-size-fits-all" approach.

"As health care providers, it's really incumbent upon us to understand the audience that that we're trying to reach and be responsive. Let them tell us how they need programs and services designed to meet their needs,” she said.

While Brentwood designs its programs and services to meet its diverse population of clients, Dulmage added residential treatment may not be beneficial to everyone.

"We need a whole menu of options. We need a great big toolbox, full of different treat people with addiction disorder," she said.

Lancers Recover offers weekly meetings, social events and community outreach opportunities.

Joining the program does not require members to abstain from substances altogether.

As for Park, they want to see student recovery programs and services expanded to more Canadian post-secondary institutions.

While Lancers Recover is one of four peer support programs represented by the Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE) in Canada, there are more than 100 in the United States.

In April 2022, the U.S. federal government called for a 25 per cent expansion of collegiate recovery programs by 2025.

"The U.S. has legislation that requires every institution to have prevention programs and to collect data on substance use," said Park. "In Canada, there is no such legislation. Institutions are not required to do any prevention work and they are not required to collect data on students' substance use." Top Stories

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