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Healthy Living Community allows substance free living choice for students

Falcon News Service

October 17, 2019

Students at UW-River Falls who want nothing to do with drug or alcohol use can opt to live in a residence hall that is home to the Healthy Living Community.

“The main core of the community is that it is substance free, meaning no use of alcohol even if they are of age and no drug use,” said Karla Thoennes, the director of Residence Life.

The community is based in Stratton Hall and consists of the entire building. Students can choose Stratton when filling out their housing contracts. The community is committed to a zero-tolerance policy for substance use within the building. In other residence halls, alcohol is allowed if a student is of age, however, it is not allowed in the Healthy Living Community under any circumstance.

The Healthy Living Community is a resource available for those who may be in recovery or for students who may be dealing with substance abuse, along with students who wish to not take part in alcohol use in general.

“A lot of people do live there because they want to know that their roommate is not going to be consuming alcohol or drugs,” said Thoennes. The goal is to create a supportive community for any student to thrive no matter the reason they decide to live there.

According to the spring 2018 UWRF National College Health Assessment, 25.4% of students had participated in binge drinking within 30 days of the survey. Additionally, 9.5% of students had used marijuana. The university also collected data regarding the use of illicit prescriptions, opioids and painkillers and found that 3.3% of students had used these substances within the past 30 days. A total of 553 students responded to the survey out of the 5,544 enrolled at UWRF that semester.

Another study, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, found that 57.1% of those within the 18-25 age group reported being current alcohol users. The survey is a project of the North Carolina-based research institute RTI International.

Because of data like this, many universities provide communities that promote a substance-free lifestyle, Thoennes said.

Aside from the Healthy Living Community being a substance-free place for students, Thoennes said she wants to expand on the idea of a healthy lifestyle environment, including improving physical and mental health.

“The healthy living piece is something we are still figuring out. We want to make more attempts to understand why students want to live there beyond the substance-free aspect,” she said.

Thoennes added: “We want feedback from the students to see how we can improve the community overall: What is attractive to them when they think of healthy living? Being able to go downstairs every morning to see yoga, or would it be about nutrition?”

The Healthy Living Community will be continuing to grow and improve in the coming years, according to Thoennes. Until it adds those extra aspects, Stratton Hall will be a place that is completely substance free and an option for students who want to embrace a healthy lifestyle.