NIU and community join to battle substance use


The data from the annual Clery Report shows a decline in drug arrests since 2014. Services on campus offer support to student drug users.

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKALB — Programs within NIU and the local community have joined to offer counseling options for students who are dealing with substance use or addiction.

Students who receive referrals from housing or student conduct and those who have concerns about their substance use can seek the help of Counseling and Consultation Services.

Those who receive referrals must pay a one-time $75 fee as well as Student Conduct fines. Students who seek counseling services for substance use without referrals are not required to pay any fees.

Erica Wade, substance abuse assessment coordinator for Counseling and Consultation Services, said her office does walk-in appointments, which clinically determine the level of support an individual may need.

“We are trying to increase the students’ understanding of how the usage is impacting them, or [the] ways that we can help you make better decisions, or what resources are on campus that you can follow up with,” Wade said.

Wade said students she sees are typically there because they’ve received two student conduct violations for substance use or first-time marijuana use violations and were mandated to take an assessment.

However, Wade said her office tries to manage different challenges people face once they come into contact with her office.

“There’s a struggle of ‘how do I be a student,’ or ‘how can I focus on my own substance abuse,’ ” Wade said. “That can be a challenge, so we really try to figure out what kind of resources are available.”

Wade said the program is designed to be a short-term option, and students who need long-term help or counseling are referred to community facilities such as the Braden Counseling Center, 2600 DeKalb Avenue Suite J, or the Ben Gordon Center with Kishhealth System, 12 Health Services Drive in Sycamore. The program also refers students to community detox centers like Rosecrance if that’s the type of care an individual needs.

Brenda Butz, Braden Counseling Center office manager, said the facility offers services to students based on their needs.

“[NIU] has a counseling services program that they offer their students, but sometimes there are things they don’t do that we can do,” Butz said. “Unfortunately, there are students who get [charged with driving under the influence] or who are maybe arrested for possession of illegal substances. Those things usually get referred straight to us [because] we are licensed through the state.”

The facility also gives students access to a psychiatrist who they can meet with via technology similar to Skype on a secured system at Braden Counseling.

Butz said the facility accepts NIU student health insurance and offers pricing that varies based on the patron’s ability to pay for students who graduate and then must pay out of pocket.

“I think it’s good the insurance does cover it because if it didn’t, people would be out of luck, and they wouldn’t get the help they needed,” said Alana Besten, senior corporate communication major.

When counseling takes place on campus, Wade said she doesn’t prioritize substance dependencies.

“I don’t think it’s fair to be able to say ‘Yes. This student, because they have this, this is the biggest concern,’ ” Wade said. “I feel like substance use has not changed for years. I think what’s changed is how we try to support and how we try to address the concerns.”

Wade said the NIU community and DeKalb community are one in the same when it comes to looking out for students.

“Everybody within the community is on the same team about wanting to support students,” Wade said. “Especially in regards to substance use or mental health.”

Wade said her office often tries to make students aware of the Wellness Promotion website because it offers students useful information about substance use.

“There’s information that lets them know about alcohol, drugs, what places they can go if they, say for instance, have been drinking and need a ride home,” Wade said. “So it gives them information as far as what strategies they can do to be smart in regards to their use.”

Wellness Promotion will no longer operate as a stand-alone department by the end of June, according to a March 22 Program Prioritization update.

Services now being offered by Wellness Promotion for alcohol and other drugs will be assigned to other departments within the Division of Student Affairs. Wade said she is unsure which programs will encompass Wellness Promotion in the future.