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Ole Miss to open center focusing on drug education and prevention

Photo courtesy of the University of Mississippi.

Ole Miss has plans to open the William Magee Center for Wellness Education on their Oxford campus to focus on drug and alcohol education and prevention.

The center is named after William Magee, an alumnus of the University of Mississippi’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and Croft Institute for International Studies. Magee also ran track for Ole Miss and was named to the SEC academic honor roll.

Before a 2013 overdose while trying to beat drug addiction, William had hoped to one day help others win their own battles against substance abuse.

The University is now giving him the chance to do so.

The William Magee Center for Wellness Education is planned to open in 2018, when construction is completed on the university’s new South Campus Recreation Facility.

“At the University of Mississippi, when we identify a problem, we seek to address it assertively and energetically,” said Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter. “Drug and alcohol abuse is a prevalent issue on college campuses across the country. Our intention with the Magee Center is to direct expertise from several disciplines across our campuses to develop creative solutions that will significantly reduce alcohol and drug misuse.”

David Magee, William’s father, said he “came home” to Oxford and Mississippi to help make a difference.

“One of our primary reasons for returning to Oxford (from Birmingham) was to be nearer to Ole Miss and find ways to contribute,” said Magee. “I was blessed to grow up in Oxford and know that students should always come first. I met with Chancellor Jeff Vitter and told him that I planned to write about William and to spearhead an initiative to help other students benefit from educational programming; he gave me great encouragement.”

Magee’s “William’s Story,” was addressed to the 2016 freshmen class and has been read by an estimated million-plus people.

“William was an outstanding student-athlete and will always be a part of this university,” said Vitter. “We are deeply grateful to his parents and other passionate donors for driving this initiative to help bring expanded educational and support mechanisms to our campus. Ole Miss wants to be proactive in supporting our students whatever their challenges may be; having added resources makes a tremendous impact on our work.”

“I also recognize the stigma that comes with the denial of so many who simply think it is just a bad choice or a bad person,” said Representative Jay Hughes, who was among the first to support the project. “We have to educate people and move forward with treating it for what it is.”

Among resources available to students at the Magee Center will be centralized education and advocacy, peer education programs, counseling and outside referrals, research on prevention and intervention, and recovery support.

American Addiction Centers CEO Michael Cartwright said support for the center is a natural fit for the company, given its own goals in prevention and education. AAC’s Oxford Treatment Center facilities include locations in Oxford, Etta, Tupelo and Olive Branch.

“We have excellent treatment programs in Mississippi where we equip people for long-term recovery,” said Cartwright. “Helping to break through the epidemic of drug and alcohol problems among college students, especially in our home communities, is something our company believes in.”

Addiction affects young people from every background, said Billy Young, co-founder and CEO of Oxford Treatment Center.

“In the work we do, we see the way drugs and alcohol can hijack the future of young people,” said Young. “The university is taking a bold step to intervene, and we’re committed to supporting this effort in every way we can.”

The Magees view the new center as an expression of love for William and a passion for helping students.

“Our university has grown, doubling in size over the past decade,” said Magee. “With growth comes the responsibility of serving a diverse student body with diverse needs. This center can be a point of light that can help so many caught between the fringes of struggle and success. Our goal is to see Ole Miss emerge as a national leader that provides world-class wellness education and resources for its students.”

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