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Substance Abuse Awareness and Recovery Support Programs Grow at Aims

Aims Community College is bolstering its efforts to provide students with substance abuse awareness and recovery programming. While the college has provided programming around these topics for decades, new strategic partnership opportunities and increased interest among student leaders have pushed efforts forward.

People holding narcan boxes and drug recovery information
Pictured left to right: Aims Director of Student Life Janet Chase, Student Government Association Vice President Danielle Irwin, and Campus Activities Programmer Jennifer Daniel.

This fall, more initiatives are rolling out, including a special guest speaker coming to campus to recognize National Recovery Month and more programs to support those in recovery or considering treatment.

National Recovery Month Celebration Speaker

Jay Pee speaking at AimsJeff Powell, better known as Jay Pee, will share his story of redemption and hope on the Aims Greeley campus. He’ll present how he overcame homelessness and addiction and then created a recovery community organization (Minnesota Hope Dealerz) and became a drug and alcohol counselor and an inspiration to those in recovery worldwide. Community members are also invited to this event.  Lunch is provided to attendees.

  • Where: Greeley Campus Student Commons 
  • When: September 27, noon-1:30 p.m.

Aims Director of Student Life Janet Chase saw Jay Pee speak at a conference and was so moved by his presentation that she wanted to bring him to campus to share his message at Aims. “His story is so powerful, she said.

“He lived on the streets, became a very successful drug dealer and spent time in prison. Essentially went from being a dope dealer to a hope dealer.”

Chase said that opening the event up to the entire community is beneficial, especially for loved ones of Aims students, “It’s super cool when students can invite their family to come in and experience things with them.” 

Partnerships to Address the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic is a growing problem in Colorado. According to the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment, 53 residents across Weld County died in 2022 from a drug overdose involving Illicit and prescription opioids. Statewide, close to 6,000 deaths due to opioid overdoses were reported in the past ten years.

Aims began addressing the issue last year by providing Narcan (naloxone) kits designed to quickly reverse the effects of an overdose. It is available as an over-the-counter nasal spray, making it easy for those without medical training to care for someone overdosing as emergency first responders are on their way.  The college has presented training on the proper use of Narcan and how it can save lives. Five Aims students and staff are certified to deliver overdose reversal training. Presentations have also been facilitated through the Centennial Area Health Education Center

The North Colorado Health Alliance (NCHA) partners with Aims to place Narcan distribution boxes on all campuses. Through this program, Aims has distributed 1,754 Narcan kits to students, staff and faculty since last summer; the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment paid for some of those kits in a program to expand access to the life-saving drug. 

Narcan box in foreground person holding it to the camera

The NCHA also provides Fentanyl testing strips and community resources on campus. The testing strips detect the presence of fentanyl in various drugs, helping people and communities identify its presence in the illicit drug supply and take steps to reduce risks. Since the summer of 2022, Aims distributed 576 testing strips on campus. 

Later this month, Aims will participate in the educational campaign “You Can’t Outsmart Fentanyl,” developed by Blue Rising Community, the organization that co-funded Jay Pee’s Greeley appearance. The campaign focuses on students who may be curious and experimenting with drugs, ensuring they know that fentanyl could be present, how lethal it is and how easy it is for them to take it unknowingly. The campaign includes a website, signage, social media assets and giveaways.

Other partnerships include training and technical assistance from the Colorado Coalition of Alcohol and Drug Educators (CADE) and the SAFE Project.

Collegiate Recovery Leadership Academy

Two Aims students have been recently accepted Into the Collegiate Recovery Leadership Academy (CRLA). Danielle Irwin, a Student Government Association Vice President, and Jennifer Daniel, a Campus Activities Programmer, have both been accepted into CRLA. During the year-long fellowship, the students implement a recovery-focused impact project on their campus, receive advocacy training, attend two in-person events, and be part of a supportive cohort of peers from around the country. 

Daniel will serve as a fellow this year. She will implement an impact project to support recovery at Aims and was one of only 50 applicants selected in a competitive application process nationwide to receive this honor. 

“I really love helping people,” Daniel said.

“It's put me on a path to work for something higher and has been a huge learning opportunity for me to help implement more practices and programs and help out the community that I'm a part of.” 

Irwin was chosen as a fellow in 2022. This year, Irwin is a CRLA group leader; she supports other new fellows nationwide as they implement their impact projects. Irwin’s project was to develop the Aims Little Book of Recovery that will be published and distributed throughout campus during this school year.  In the book, Irwin collects stories, poetry and artwork from the Aims community to discuss recovery. “I believe sharing stories helps reduce the stigma and empowers those still struggling,” Irwin said. “It’s good to hear other people's stories and know you're not alone.” 

Through her personal experience, Irwin knows that substance abuse can impact your life and educational aspirations. She first started attending Aims in 2011 when she admitted she was “really heavy in addiction.” Irwin was failing classes and withdrew from the rest of them.  She wishes that the support mechanisms in place now were available back then. “I think my recovery journey could have started a long time ago. It's important that we help our students be successful and also help save lives.”

Both Irwin and Daniel are passionate about the work they are doing. “I talked to many students who would like a community where they can feel connected,” Irwin said. “Jennifer and I are people in recovery. So this project is very close and dear to our hearts.”

Recovery Support on Campus

This month, Aims began offering SMART Recovery Meetings for students. Aims also has a robust Counseling Services team that offers in-person and virtual services and resources to students dealing with substance abuse and other mental health struggles. 

Chase sees all of these programs as essential, drawing from her years working in higher education. She previously worked as an advisor and often heard stories from students about how substance use affected their lives, either by loved ones or themselves. It impacted their ability to be successful in college. 

Chase is enthusiastic about this program and passionate about providing multiple pathways to bring together students struggling with the same things.

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it's connection. I believe that, so I wanted a space and effort so students could connect. They feel isolated. There's such a stigma associated with it and we want to break that.” 

She has no doubt that the programs at Aims have a bright future with this positive momentum converging. “I've always wanted to have more robust recovery programs,” Chase said. “I’m so excited to see it happening now.” 

To learn more about what Aims is doing to support students, visit