Ursinus Is Nation’s First College to Be Certified as Recovery-Friendly Workplace
Recovery-Friendly Workplaces, a nonprofit that promotes support for people in recovery from substance use and mental health disorders, certified Ursinus College as the first recovery-friendly college campus in the country.
Grown from a campaign that began in New Hampshire, the now national organization Recovery-Friendly Workplaces (RFW) leads numerous initiatives designed to help businesses enhance their workplaces and earn certification. In 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs awarded grants to Unity Recovery and Drug Free Workplaces PA to implement RFW programs through the commonwealth, and expanded programming in Philadelphia. Ursinus’s Director of Health Promotion Katie Bean seized upon the opportunity for Ursinus to become the first certified college campus.
“This is an important distinction for the college, and it serves as yet another example of how seriously we take our commitment to the Okanagan Charter, which calls upon colleges to embed health into all aspects of campus life—for students and employees,” said President Robyn Hannigan. “Earning this recognition showcases all that we have done to advance workplace well-being.”
The yearlong certification process began with students and employees campuswide completing a self-assessment regarding policies related to behavioral health support and mental health. RFW gave the college, based on the self-assessment, four recommendations for action that will guide the college: (1) increase internal marketing of support services offered to employees and students, (2) increase awareness that recovery status is included in disability protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act and therefore included in our Equal Employment Opportunity statement, (3) continue to offer recovery-friendly programming, and (4) arrange for supervisors, as well as human resources personnel, vice presidents and directors, to complete 10 hours of training on how to be a recovery-friendly institution.
“In order to end the stigma of addiction, higher education must be part of the solution—and I commend Ursinus College for being named the first recovery-friendly workplace, leading the way for their students, faculty, and staff,” U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA-04) said. “Substance use disorder has affected families across our country, including my own, so I’m deeply encouraged by Ursinus College’s efforts to create a supportive environment for those in recovery. There is hope in recovery, and I look forward to seeing more important work from our nation’s higher education institutions.”
The trainings, “How to Be Recovery Friendly” and “Supportive Supervision,” stressed the importance of empathy, flexibility, and open and honest communication. Students in recovery can request accommodations, but Bean notes that being a recovery-friendly campus means extending accommodations to employees as well.
“It’s about accommodating people whenever they’re in need and in any way that makes sense,” said Bean.
To that end, statements specifying precisely what accommodations are offered to students and employees are not necessarily helpful because everyone’s needs are different. Instead, students are encouraged to work with the office of disability and access, and employees should speak to their supervisor and follow up, as needed, with human resources.
Some support options available to employees include an innovative new partnership with Sanctuary Counseling, which offers therapy sessions for a discounted rate of $60, the Employee Assistance Program, the Family Medical Leave of Absence, wellness days, the summer flexible schedule policy, and the remote work policy.
“The very important thing about this certificate is we don’t just earn it and then move on,” said Bean. “We need to continue to live up to the values of this certificate.”
First up are information sessions to share the news about the certification and explain what it means for employees. “What was the process? How does it align with Ursinus values? Why does this matter? Those are questions we’ll address,” said Bean. She and Karen Miller, the college’s first peer recovery support specialist, will also review the resources available to employees and students.
September, which is recovery month, will feature several events for the campus community, including training, testimonials, and the grand opening of The Hive—yet another commitment to the overall well-being of campus. This new area will be the home to counseling and health promotion, and serve as a restoration and programming space for students. For more information, attend an upcoming information session and watch for updates via email.