Duluth and Superior together make up a fairly large college community, with nearly 25,000 students enrolled in six area colleges and universities as well as online programs.
With a population that large, some students need help with substance use disorder. Others are making the transition to successful lives after involvement with criminal behavior, which often has been complicated by substance abuse.
Enter the CLEAN program, a nine-year-old sober living environment that also provides treatment assistance and other support for college students in the region. The innovative program, initiated at the College of St. Scholastica and still based there, now offers residential and support services to 51 college students or prospective students studying on multiple campuses and online as they try to better themselves through education.
Recently, CLEAN awarded the Duluth Bethel with one of its first Community Partnership Awards for the Bethel’s work to identify students who would benefit from CLEAN and providing support for CLEAN participants. Bethel Executive Director Dennis Cummings attended the CLEAN gala event May 5 and accepted the award on behalf of the organization. Duluth’s Center for Alcoholism and Drug Treatment also received a Community Partnership Award.
“Dennis has always made sure the Bethel’s counselors are educated about and aware of CLEAN,” says Julie Gehlen, CLEAN’s program director. “Dennis will call and say, ‘Do you have open beds,’ or, ‘How is summer looking,’ or, ‘How can we help?’ We couldn’t have survived without that kind of support. And he has directed us to people who want to go to school and continue living healthy lives. These are people who just need support.”
Gehlen knows. She is a graduate of both the Bethel and the CLEAN program.
“When I talk to people, it’s an easy sell,” she says. “I am living proof that it can work. A lot of people are coming from the prison system with felonies. School and a life don’t look like possibilities. But someone like me who pursued a social work career after that shows it can be done.”
She adds, “Dennis talks that up all the time. He’s able to say to clients, ‘Of course you can go to school and make it happen. Julie made it happen. You should give her a call.’”
Cummings says, “Julie is a great example of how, with the right mindset and support, a person can remake his or her life and help other people do the same. The Bethel is honored to be a partner with the CLEAN program. We’re fortunate to have this program in our community and to work together to make lives better.”
For more information about the CLEAN program, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 218-723-6527.