Dr Kimball, Melissa and Vince’s arrival in Middlesbrough comes around quickly, I drive up to Newcastle airport excited and anxious about the days ahead. I am collecting Vince as Dr Tom and Melissa have been to Scotland and travelling down by train. We drive back chatting about my few days with the students in Prague and the opportunities we could have in the UK. I’ve thought of little else since leaving them, very positive about sharing the concept with a group of 100 attendees at the Teesside University Seminar.
We meet up for dinner and go to The Fork in the Road, Middlesbrough’s not for profit social enterprise restaurant that provides opportunity for those who are furthest away from the job market. I get slightly anxious when Vince orders a steak, a Texan ordering a steak in Middlesbrough, this could go wrong!
Not to be, thankfully, they were all very impressed with the food and service. Next stop Bar Zero, we chat about how good it would be for a similar venue on Campus at Texas Tech University.
9am and we meet Paul Crawshaw, Dean, Health & Social Sciences, Teesside University along with Georgios Antonopoulos, Professor of Criminology. The discussions around the benefits of a collegiate recovery programme are hard to dispute, the comparisons to under represented groups at Teesside University further underpin the value. A further meeting is suggested and we all leave feeling very positive and hopeful. Now to convince a group of professionals from various local services, London and members of the recovery community.
I introduce the day and why I feel we need to consider Collegiate Recovery and Recovery High Schools. I quote a term that I heard during a visit to North Carolina and Georgia Universities which has stuck in my head ever since ‘Universities and Colleges are abstinence hostile environments’ of course they are!
Dr Tom gives an excellent overview, citing relevant research around addiction and recovery, threading through some discussion and questions. It’s all very positive and meeting the overall objective of just getting curious, no more than that. I actually sense a bit of excitement, even better.
Mark Gilman’s turn next to take us through the archives of addiction treatment and the recovery movement in the UK. In true Mark style the room is filled with laughter as he describes our seemingly ineffective approaches to stimulate recovery for the many suffering addiction over the last 3 decades. Thankfully recovery is evermore growing with peer communities offering endless hope.
We watch Generation Found, a film detailing Archway Academy in Houston, Texas. Started by the community who were sick of seeing young people die, Archway offers 15 to 18 year olds another chance to complete their education, stay clean and sober and be part of a peer group that loves and supports them no matter what their past looked like. Another term that makes perfect sense is ‘Alternative Peer Group’ young people will only succeed if they swap old circles for an APG that is positive, supportive and attractive.
The final discussion is lively, generally still positive and takes us 40 minutes over the finish time. A great day, lots of interest and good feedback. An appetite to stay in touch and keep the momentum going, exceeding the hope of just being curious.
A lot to think about, embedding this approach will take time, needs thought and careful planning. Winning hearts and minds is an organic process, we have a start.
We can’t allow our Texan guests to leave without sampling the Boro delicacy, the Parmo. We return to our building and eat a Parmo with the residents of the Step Up rehab programme, who all very much enjoyed the day. The conversation slows down under the sedative effect of the glorious Parmo. A fulfilling day in so many ways….
The infamous Boro Parmo