Long before Chase Loveless overdosed, his father knew something was wrong.
Bruce Loveless had been taught drug addiction was the result of a personal choice, something that one could overcome if they tried hard enough. He pushed his son — whose addiction likely stemmed from pain pills he was given after having wisdom teeth removed, Bruce said — to overcome his addiction through tough love and sheer willpower. After all, it was that same hard work and determination that made him a state champion football player and a basketball star at Hammond School.
"I didn't know, and I did everything wrong," Bruce Loveless said. "I should have just locked him in a cage and got him help."
Chase, 23, died of an opioid overdose on January 22, 2014, just months before graduating from the University of South Carolina.
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Though Chase never overcame his addiction, Bruce thinks a program for Gamecocks trying to stay sober after an addiction could have helped save his son's life. That's why he and USC students recovering from drug and alcohol addiction pushed for the university to join about 200 other colleges and universities in creating a recovery program for college students.
In May, Bruce — who founded the Palmetto Foundation for Prevention and Recovery in his son's memory — got his wish.
When students return to campus this fall, USC will have a full-time staff member dedicated to coordinating support programs for recovering students and serving as an advocate for them. Larkin Cummings, who previously worked at the University of Texas-Austin in that university's recovery program, will coordinate the programs.
"She's a really good hire, and she's really qualified," said Tyler Crochet, a graduate student who has, since 2013, advocated for USC to hire a Gamecock Recovery staff member. "I think a bigger staff is important, but I think that will come in time. Hiring someone is a good start."
Cummings could not be reached for comment.
About 12 students are "very active" in the Gamecock recovery program, and more occasionally participate, USC spokesman Jeff Stensland said in an email. But a fall 2016 survey found 4 percent of the student body — roughly 1,350 students at the time — could use help recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction. Some studies estimate drug and alcohol abuse is a factor in 40 percent of cases where students drop out of college.
"Hiring a full-time coordinator was the result of conversations with students in recovery, who voiced a strong desire to have a full-time staff member to assist with the needs of their community," Stensland wrote in an email. "Although recovering students are a small portion of our student population, we’re pleased that we could add the coordinator position to better serve the needs of recovering students and help them have a meaningful and fulfilling college experience."
At other programs in the country, recovery groups form intramural sports teams, go hiking and take bus trips to football games, said Bill Pruitt, who helped advocate for a collegiate recovery program at USC.
"If it's done properly, it's like a fraternity, where young people going through recovery have a community," Pruitt said. "They want to be like every other kid in college."