Foundation Gives Surprise Donation to UCR Student Recovery Group

A weekend conference organized by the UCR student group the Healing Highlanders came to a close Sunday with a surprise $10,000 check from a group dedicated to promoting recovery support on campuses

The members of the UCR recovery-support group, the Healing Highlanders, were overjoyed by the surprise donation of $10,000 from the Stacie Mathewson Foundation on Sunday, Oct. 21.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — A UCR conference designed to promote campus communities that support students in recovery received an unexpected endorsement Sunday when a supporter donated $10,000 to help fund the group’s efforts.

The members of the UCR Healing Highlanders, a student-run collegiate recovery community, were stunned when Stacie Mathewson, who runs the Stacie Mathewson Foundation, presented them with the check at the close of the conference.

The California Unified Collegiate Recovery Conference – the first of its kind on the West Coast – was designed to promote recovery support services on University of California campuses and student communities throughout the state.  However, the 200 participants included students and professionals from all over the country including the East Coast, the Midwest and Texas.

University campuses are a hostile environment for students in recovery, said Dr. Tom Kimball, an associate professor at Texas Tech University and the associate managing director for the campus’s Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery. Kimball was accompanied by 35 students from Texas Tech’s Collegiate Recovery Program.

Substance abuse counts for 20-40% of all dropouts from college programs, conference speakers said. About 22 percent of college students report recent illegal drug use, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study, and the rate of alcohol consumption is heavier among college students than any other group.

Among Americans seeking treatment for substance abuse, the number of college-age students seeking professional treatment for addiction increased almost 150% in the decade ending in 2009, compared with a 9% jump in the 25-and-older category, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In contrast, the relapse rate among students in the recovery program at Texas Tech is 6%, Kimball said. Their graduation rate is 80% and their grade-point-average is 0.7 higher than the average student on their campus. In addition, students have a tremendous level of gratitude, he said, and go on to provide leadership and service in many different areas.

Providing a similar level of support to students recovering from addiction is the goal of the Healing Highlanders group.

Relapse is a huge issue for people recovering from addiction who have no support system, said Dr. Harry Haroutunian, head of physician services at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage.  According to the California Society for Addiction Medicine, people who complete a 30-day treatment program without subsequent support have a 92% relapse rate.

“Collegiate recovery communities focus on students who have already been through treatment and are looking for fellowship and support to continue their growth,” said Audrey Pusey, associate director for residence life and student conduct, lead advisor to the Healing Highlanders.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is eager to support recovery programs for young people, said Peter Gaumond, director of recovery services. Addressing addiction is an urgent issue at a time when hospitalizations and death from prescription drug overdoses have outpaced those from traffic accidents, he said.

The Stacie Mathewson Foundation, which made the surprise donation, is designed to promote just such support systems on college campuses, Mathewson told conference participants. The foundation is funded by philanthropist Charles Mathewson, former head of IGT, a company that producing gaming machines for the gambling industry. Mathewson has provided financial support to a number of similar programs on college campuses and is financing a survey to determine the numbers and kinds of such program nationwide.

The UCR Healing Highlanders got its start in 2011 and was named UCR’s New Student Organization of the Year. The UCR program models the collegiate recovery community model conceived more than 25 years ago at Texas Tech University.

The Texas program received a federal earmark grant designated to allow them to develop a model curriculum that institutions can use to create a comprehensive continuing care plan to assist college students with recovery, academics, financial resources and life skills training.

Media Contact

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Additional Contacts

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Audrey Pusey
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