Rocky Top Recovery Ambassador Program

Jeremy C. Kourvelas, MPH

July 5, 2023

Over the last year, the SMART Initiative successfully piloted the Rocky Top Recovery Ambassador program, a community-building initiative of UTK undergraduate and graduate students that identify as being in recovery and/or having mental health disorders.  Building a community on campus of students wanting a safer, sober college experience, the ambassadors hosted weekly all-recovery meetings and mental health events.

They also worked wonders reaching out to the broader UTK student body with a series of sober-friendly social events, ranging from the time-old tradition of painting the rock to concerts with local musicians to inflatable obstacle course relay races right in the middle of campus.

One of the most impactful elements of this program was their partnership with the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) and community leaders like Metro Drug Coalition (MDC) to provide training on Narcan, mental health first aid, and how to be a recovery ally.  Setting up events in classrooms, fraternity houses, and even in Hodges library, the ambassadors helped students get access to crucial information and services.

Now that the program has grown, it has been formally handed off to UTK’s Center for Health Education and Wellness, where it will continue to thrive and grow.  TDMHSAS and SMART are looking forward to the program being implemented on other UT campuses, and hopefully to other non-UT colleges as well.