Community Culinary School of Charlotte Relapse Prevention Program

County: Mecklenburg

Grantee: Community Culinary School of Charlotte

Title: Community Culinary School of Charlotte Relapse Prevention Program

Description: Community Culinary School of Charlotte’s (CCSC) Relapse Prevention Program serves its students, alumni, and staff who are at-risk for substance use disorder. Their Relapse Prevention Program meaningfully supports CCSC’s mission to provide training and job placement assistance for adults with barriers in gaining living-wage employment.

Having a trained Relapse Prevention Specialist (RPS), who is also a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC), on staff is a powerful tool that contributes to individuals’ successful transitions. CCSC’s Relapse Prevention Program encompasses individual and group sessions woven into the 14-week Workforce Training curriculum; mandatory drug screens at the beginning and end of each class; random drug screens throughout class; and treatment protocol and follow-up as needed. CCSC encourages their alumni to continue meeting with RPS counselors after graduation for ongoing progress maintaining employment and life goals, and recovery treatment recommendations.

CCSC’s ultimate goal is to educate students to recognize the symptoms of substance use disorder so that they will: complete CCSC’s program and graduate, find and sustain living-wage employment, prevent future relapse, and maintain abstinence. CCSC wants their graduates to learn sober living and coping skills needed for successful lives, and to become productive contributing members of society.

Why This Project Was Chosen:
CCSP’s Relapse Prevention Program emphasizes substance use disorder prevention as a path to students’ long-term health in addressing barriers. Many students are chronically unemployed due to substance use disorder. At 14 weeks, our program begins the process of making life-changing differences, encouraging alumni to continue counseling at CCSC. As a primary support system in the shaky days of early sobriety, they help identify triggers for relapse, and guide those in denial to take steps toward recovery.

CCSC conducts mandatory, on-site drug screens (beginning and end of each class) plus randomly. If inconclusive, McLeod Addictive Disease Center runs an in-depth panel. If positive, they are asked to complete treatment protocol. If not followed, the student is asked to leave and could be considered for a subsequent class. Alumni can only receive job referrals if they test negative and follow recommendations.

Many students are from environments where risky use of substances is rampant and risky behaviors are the norm. When substance misuse is a primary survival technique, people typically remain in that situation until forced to break the familiar and harmful cycle. A major threat to long-term success is vulnerability to succumb to peer pressure and return to previous survival patterns. Students may claim to have no problems with a substance use disorder, but test positive. Drug testing provides observable data to hold students accountable.

People in active addiction for long periods can have difficulty embracing success, which can be frightening because failure is familiar. CCSC supplies a safety net for those at risk, just as they begin to experience success, and plant a seed leading to improvement. Their Relapse Prevention Program helps students prevent relapse and complete their training with stronger re-entry into the workforce.

CCSC’s approach is: be genuine, empathetic, and non-judgmental. Students develop individual Plans that they sign and modify throughout the class, directing their own progress. The proverb, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him to fish, and he eats for a lifetime,” demonstrates CCSC’s vision for students to achieve sustained long-term wellness.

Who This Project Impacted: Located in Charlotte, Community Culinary School of Charlotte serves Mecklenburg and surrounding counties. Students range in age from 18–65. Their average applicant has little income, coming from fragile circumstances: 54% male, 46% female, 20% White, 75% Black, and 5% other.

Results of Project: During the grant period, Community Culinary School of Charlotte provided career paths in food service to 128 adults with barriers including addiction, incarceration, homelessness, veterans’ issues, and lack of skills.