Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

The ROCC finds a home

Posted on November 12, 2016 in News
By USM Free Press

By Jonathan Pessant, Free Press Staff

In tracking down interviews and information about the ROCC, or Recovery Oriented Campus Center, I was pointed in many directions. On the ROCC USM web page, I was led to the basement of Luther Bonney where the English department maintains space for two full time professors and a host of adjunct professors using a large room for student conferences. Next I tried another location, also rumored to be a place for the ROCC, rooms adjacent to counseling services in Payson Smith Hall. The last rumor was “somewhere on Bedford Street.” This description being so vague I ultimately dismissed the idea. That was Friday.

Over the weekend something miraculous happened, the ROCC found a permanent location: the second floor in Sullivan Gym. This week I entered Sullivan Gym, checked in with the attendant. When I asked if I could go up, she said “Sure, Anna’s up there!”

I climbed the stairs, and upon entering I was warmly greeted by Anna Gardner, collegiate recovery program coordinator. She offered to give me a tour of the recovery center. After seeing her office and the office of Diane Geyer, Coordinator of Substance Use Clinical Services, we entered an empty room at the end of the hallway.

“This will be our peer community room. I know it looks bare now but eventually we will have comfortable furniture. This space will be also used for group presentations and meetings.”

Gardner relayed that in the coming weeks a touchscreen computer monitor would be mounted to the wall in the room to ensure a seamless capacity for peers and  peer leaders (terms for members of the ROCC) to lead group meetings properly. The next rooms were for peers to study in, computers would be installed soon. The last room, the only one with chairs, was large and quiet. Here Gardner said mediation and support groups would be held.  The improvements intended for not only the peer community room but for the entire seven-room space dedicated for the ROCC is funded by a federal grant awarded to the recovery center.

In an email response, Geyer said, “The University of Southern Maine has provided space to house their new Recovery Oriented Campus Center. We are currently moving into the ROCC and expect to be occupying all the space in the next couple of weeks. We are already using our Group room.”

Geyer’s response also illuminated on some confusion about the permanent location for the ROCC. “USM reviewed many spaces over the last couple of month. Some of the spaces reviewed could not accommodate the student’s needs, some space was not readily available or needed to be renovated to accommodate the specific needs of the center’s programming.”

Student Intern and the “face” of the ROCC, Andrew Kiezulas, insists the importance of a permanent location for students in substance use recovery. He said that with the ROCC on campus it brings the group closer to the USM community, and in turn, brings all aspects of the USM community closer to each student in substance use recovery. Being located on the 2nd floor of Sullivan Gym, the recovery center is well situated to provide a successful environment.

“We don’t want students to have to choose between their classes and going to a recovery meeting. They can have both here.”

Kiezulas mentioned that the present administration is far more “recovery friendly” than when the Students and Recovery program, the precursor to the ROCC, started in 2013.

“It’s a very, very different atmosphere.”

Recovery friendly is just the first step in a longer process to destigmatizing substance use addiction and recovery Kiezulas adds. With understanding and education friendly soon turns to being an ally to the ROCC, and eventually with considered effort allies become recovery ready. Allies can be both individuals and groups on campus like the OAM, who combined efforts with the ROCC to provide substance free outdoor activities for both of its members.

“The opposite of addiction is connection,” Kiezulas proudly states. “That’s what we’re all longing for, a belonging, a fitting in, a purpose.”

Around campus students tended to feel the same way about the need for both connection and understanding. Many students see the need for the ROCC as a means for students in recovery to ensure their success at college.

“Substance use addiction can happen to anyone. It is important to have that resource for them,” Tim Gilman, a junior and technology management major, said.

Connection and building community is a big part of the ROCC’s mission. The center itself offers a multitude of services and support for its peers that include Student and Recovery groups, a mindfulness and meditation group called YesPlus, yoga,  and Young People in Recovery groups. They offer recovery planning, counseling, ways for its peers to be leaders in the community.  But a strong part of the center is the outgoing nature of  Andrew Kiezulas.

In an interview with a peer who wished to remain anonymous, they named Kiezulas as one of the ROCC’s best public advocates for connection with the USM campuses.

“Andrew is always giving hugs or high fives or just saying hi to everyone in passing. Reaching out can be powerful,” the peer reiterated, “You never know when someone is having a shitty day and that conversation or high five can lighten them up.”  

 

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