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In colleges today, more support is needed

The following OpEd written by The Children’s Foundation’s President & CEO, Lawrence J. Burns, was published in Crain’s Business Detroit on Sunday, August 7, 2022. This emphasizes the important work The Children’s Foundation and the Jamie Daniels Foundation are doing with colleges and universities throughout Michigan to ensure all students feel supported, connected, and hopeful about their futures. PDF version / online version 

As summer comes to an end and we look forward to football, cool evenings, and returning to the classroom, I thought it was important to share with you a major initiative of The Children’s Foundation and our affiliate partner, the Jamie Daniels Foundation.

When I was a student at Central Michigan University (CMU) in the mid-1970s, it was pretty much a carefree environment, and in many ways the world was a much different place. The drinking age in Michigan at that time was 18, so all students were legally enjoying festive times at places like The Cabin, Wayside Central, and The Bird. I certainly had never heard of opioids and my vision of a heroin addict was someone on the streets of a major city far away from Mount Pleasant or other college campuses.

We did have the occasional unfortunate situation where one of my classmates suddenly went home, but we didn’t know why. We sometimes found out later it was because he or she was drinking too much or suffering from a mental health concern. They left campus, and we went on about our lives.

Fast forward to today – the average college student has experienced life much differently than I did, both in their communities and in the world. They face competition to get into school, competition to make their favorite sports team or high school program, and social media which might be the most problematic. There are cell phones and cameras literally everywhere you go. Thank goodness those weren’t around at Austin Catholic Prep or CMU when I was their age!

Now, the drinking age is 21 and we are paying well over a dollar for a bottle of water. Not only that, but marijuana is legalized. Who would’ve thought that was even possible in 1978? I also often wonder what people would have thought of me if I said that in 2022 there would be e-cigarettes and vaping.

Many of our youth are now on either mood enhancing drugs or other powerful medications. The highly addictive nature of opioids has become a crisis that unfortunately many times leads to heroin addiction and tragic overdoses. We all have either lost loved ones or certainly know someone who has been impacted by the disease known today as substance use disorder (SUD).

The Children’s Foundation and our affiliate partner, the Jamie Daniels Foundation, are committed to helping students recover from SUD and stay in school. We believe that recovery is possible, and that education is the way to remain hopeful that one’s life will be fulfilling, promising, and successful.

We are now supporting seven collegiate recovery programs throughout Michigan. These programs are designed to help students suffering from addiction stay alive and stay in school, stay on campus, and graduate. Recovery is one thing but having the resilience and the hope that one can maintain sobriety and live an enjoyable life is another. These programs are critical to helping students stay on the path to success. No one wants to be an addict. No one wants to suffer from addiction and all the negative ways it impacts one’s life and their loved ones.

We started this journey with Michigan State University’s collegiate recovery initiative, and now we are proud to say we’re involved with collegiate recovery programs at Oakland University, Central Michigan University, Ferris State University, Mid-Michigan College, The University of Michigan, Washtenaw Community College, and even more campuses soon to be announced.

Every student deserves a chance to experience college and all the life learning experiences that come along with it. Every student deserves to graduate, enter into a field and begin a career they have been dreaming of for years.

If you have a child, a grandchild, or a friend going back to school, please pay attention to their behavior over the coming months. There are many signs that indicate SUD or that their mental health could be suffering. It may be that they are quieter than normal, not calling as much, or other changes in their behavior. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to be intrusive. Prevention is key!

It is our pledge to keep working and improving these programs and raising the funds needed to continue our journey. We are proud be leading the way. Please join The Children’s Foundation, the Jamie Daniels Foundation, and our partners to continue the effort to help and support young people suffering from SUD to live a healthy, fulfilling, and successful life.

Help us improve the health and wellness of more children and families.

You can help us reach more children and families by making a gift to The Children’s Foundation. Click here to make your gift.

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