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UNT SURE Center aims to change views on substance use after name change last month

UNT SURE Center aims to change views on substance use after name change last month

UNT SURE Center aims to change views on substance use after name change last month
March 22
10:00 2019

Formerly known as the Substance Abuse Resource Center (SARC), the UNT program devoted to educating students about alcohol and substance use is now known as the Substance Use Resource and Education Center (SURE).

“The idea behind our name change is really kind of the culmination of both research and us wanting to destigmatize substance use,” said David Robinson, the graduate assistant for SURE.

In addition to providing support for those in recovery, the center serves as a resource center and works to educate the student body.

Robinson said the SURE center found that the use of the word ‘abuse’ in their name made students feel uncomfortable and hesitant and that use of the words ‘abuse’ and ‘addict’ changed the way people behaved as well. He thinks that the language is punitive.

“If we change one thing about the language, we can change the outcome of what people think about substance use,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that SURE received some pushback about the name change from other university programs in the recovery field. He said he wants the field to shift into a recovery-oriented system, rather than that of punishment.

“People didn’t really understand that language really matters,” Robinson said. “We had to really kind of push that idea for everyone.”

SURE began the process of a name change more than a year ago. The process of changing the name was long because it needed approval from the Dean of Students, the Division of Student Affairs and all of the departments above them. The name was officially changed in February.

Tim Trail, coordinator for SURE, noticed a different reception of the center after the name change. He said that before, students felt like they were in trouble when they came in because of the stigma surrounding the word ‘abuse.’

Trail said he did not think SARC was an accurate representation of the center, and that students should feel more comfortable.

Overall, SURE engages with 2,500 to 3,000 students per semester and Trail said he sees 800-900 people a year. About 25-30 percent of those students are self-referrals, or people that seek help on their own. Trail said that while that is about average for the university, he had a 98 percent success rate in spring 2018 with students and 100 percent in the fall.

This success rate is unique, and Trail said he believes it is because SURE operates differently than other universities. While other schools are more focused on the statistics and simply put students through rigid programs, Trail said he focuses on “walking through life with them a little bit.”

Trail said he tries to gain a better understanding of students’ situations and has found that making short-term goals with them is effective as well.

“People feel really put at ease that they’re not attacked or told they’re right or wrong or what to do,” Trail said.

Trail said the majority of students he meets with do not know any facts or research about alcohol and drug use, so he provides this information to them and encourages them to do their own research.

“The problem is, there is no education for drugs and alcohol,” Trail said. “There’s a lot of ‘just say no’ which is not education. There’s a lot of ‘if you do this you’re gonna die’ which is scare tactics.”

Bailey Labarr, an undergraduate assistant for SURE, hopes that the name change will bring more attention to the resource center. To her, substance use is prominent in college and students overlook or don’t seek out the Center and the resources it offers.

“There’s a lot of fear about coming to one of these places to talk to someone but I think that’s what we’re trying to eliminate, is that fear.”

For more information on how to find support or get involved, contact surecenter@unt.edu.

Featured Image: Members of SURE, formally SARC work at a tabling event on the Library Mall in 2017. Courtesy Facebook.

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Jasmine Robinson

Jasmine Robinson

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