A-B Tech has been forced to confront the opioid epidemic this year after the fatal overdose of a student on campus in July, as well as other fatal student overdoses off-campus and several on-campus incidents in which students were revived.
Heather Pack, director of Student Support Services at A-B Tech, says nine out of 10 students seeking personal counseling report a problem with addiction. In addition to individual counseling, Pack and her staff also lead Addiction Recovery and Coping (ARC) sessions and recently began an on-campus recovery support group for students.
With the opioid epidemic affecting virtually every aspect of society, A-B Tech has responded in a variety of ways, including professional education for faculty and staff, stepped-up counseling and recovery services, and partnerships with law enforcement and recovery groups.
Stuart Mosely, the 30-year-old A-B Tech student who suffered a fatal heroin overdose, left his classroom on July 3 and never returned. His body was later found in a nearby restroom. His mother, Anne Seaman, said he had been using opioids off and on for the past 12 years, had been through periods of homelessness, and attempted recovery several times.
After her son’s death, Seaman reached out to A-B Tech to help provide the college with resources to respond to the opioid crisis, hoping to support students who may be struggling with addiction and convince them to seek help. She filmed a video for A-B Tech that is being shown to all incoming students, appeared on the college’s radio talk show, and is helping Pack start the recovery support group.
“It’s no longer an epidemic here in Asheville, it’s an emergency,” Seaman said. “It cuts across all socioeconomic and demographic lines. It’s just everywhere. Some people bury it. I have chosen not to bury it.”
Before her son’s death, he had been clean for about nine months, Seaman said. He lived with his parents, was working in the kitchen at a religious retreat, and was enrolled part-time at A-B Tech, where he was working on an associate’s degree in network security. Seaman doesn’t know why Stuart started using again.
“All it takes is one bad decision. Once you flip that switch in your brain, you cannot turn it off. It’s a constant fight,” she said.
A-B Tech also is working with Red Oak Recovery, a rehab facility, to provide training for faculty and staff on the warning signs and physiology of addiction, as well as resources for students. The college also has had officers from the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department opioid task force present at several meetings.
“Responding to this epidemic is a priority as we seek to support our students and their families,” said A-B Tech President Dennis King. “We are especially grateful to Mrs. Seaman for her courage and generosity. She is making a real difference for our students and community.”
Mrs. Seaman will be part of a panel during the latest series of forums on the opioid epidemic held by Buncombe County Commissioners, which will be offered from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30 at the Mission Health/A-B Tech Conference Center on the college’s Asheville campus. The public can listen to Mrs. Seaman discuss her son’s addiction at abtech.edu/opioids.
About A-B Tech Community College
One of 58 colleges in the North Carolina Community College System, A-B Tech offers associate degrees, diplomas and certificates in more than 60 curriculum programs through its five academic divisions: Allied Health and Public Service Education, Arts and Sciences, Business and Hospitality Education, Emergency Services and Engineering and Applied Technology.
The Division of Economic and Workforce Development/Continuing Education offers opportunities for workforce partnerships, specific job training and retraining, as well as personal enrichment classes. A-B Tech enrolls more than 25,000 curriculum and continuing education students in programs at its Asheville, Enka, Madison, South, Woodfin and Goodwill locations.
For more information visit www.abtech.edu