February is a month when ARHE and I take time to reflect on everything related to Black History Month. Personally, I always remember just how influential Jackie Robinson was not just to baseball and society at large, but to the addiction field as well. 

Jackie’s son was in recovery from addiction before passing away in 1971 from a car accident. Jackie spent the next year traveling the country speaking up about addiction and recovery before his own sudden passing in 1972.  There are countless advocates and pioneers who have shaped history as we know it. 

Black History Month also provides an opportunity to acknowledge just how much further we need to go. There is an incredible amount of work to be done to ensure that equity and justice are spread throughout collegiate recovery, higher education, and the behavioral health field. I know that our influence really lies internally and within the collegiate recovery field specifically. We are committed to do the internal work necessary to become an anti-racist organization that seeks to rebuild structures from an equity-based foundation.

A friend of mine from my home state of Delaware captured it perfectly: structural and institutional racism are not just a part of history, they are the foundation of our present-day reality and we are all responsible for working to make things better. This is the exact mindset that ARHE and I have taken in the past year and will continue to pursue moving forward. 

I have had to grow in this area in a tremendous number of ways and am eternally grateful to the collegiate recovery staff who have challenged me, educated me, and guided me towards a path of progress. The same can be said for ARHE overall. In recent years we have fallen short in a number of areas  including the perpetuation of and complicitness with inequity. Though we are not yet where we need to be, I am very proud of some of the current and upcoming changes and actions we have taken to grow as an association: 

  • Dedicated time on our Board of Directors agendas  to challenge each other, listen, and take action specific to dismantling systems of oppression, (i.e. racism, homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia).
  • Actively sought to amplify voices of people of color through Board membership and positions of leadership
  • Expanded engagement and advisement vehicles for the Association with strong presences from marginalized communities: 
    • Advisory Council
    • Student Ambassador Board
    • Interns
    • Committees
  • Expanded our offerings at our national conference and other events to deepen and standardize the importance of equity, access, and anti-racism within the collegiate recovery field

Upcoming actions where we will continue to develop in this work: 

  • Launching a new social-justice focused working group in the spring open to ARHE members
  • “Anti-Racism in Collegiate Recovery” webinar on March 25th 
  • Hosting the most diverse and inclusive conference we’ve had yet, with a number of sessions focusing on supporting marginalized students, incorporating equity within programs and decisions, and promoting social justice as a whole
  • Incorporation and development of these principles and values into ARHE Accreditation for collegiate recovery programs: 
    • CRPs are responsible to combat dominance in identity and culture through:
      • Acknowledgement that the foundation of higher education policy and practice has historically served dominant populations and dis-served marginalized populations
      • Active interruption and dismantling of stigmatizing and marginalizing culture, behavior, language, policy and practice
      • The development of relationships/partnerships on and outside of campus that create paths towards recovery for marginalized groups
      • Active engagement in multiculturalism, pluralism, inclusion, equity and justice based practices.

Where we still have an opportunity to grow: 

  • Ensure that the work and messaging continue year-round, not just in certain months or weeks
  • Proactively seek ways to assist programs and ways for programs to assist us
  • Further integrate this work into our overall culture 

As always, we are open to feedback and further conversations on what we can do better. I am the only full-time staff member so bandwidth is limited. We rely on volunteers in every single aspect of our work. 

While we hope that Black History Month was absolutely a celebration of the progress that has been made so far, we also hope that it is a strong reminder of how much more work needs to be done. The responsibility to do that work falls on all of us: for the sake of students, programs, and the collegiate recovery field as a whole. 

Tim Rabolt

Executive Director

Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE)