The Brandon Whitten Institute at East Central University has been funded for five more years. Pictured are those who are directly and indirectly connected with BWI. From left to right are: East Central University President Emeritus John Hargrave; Jeff Hargrave, FATE director of operations; Reggie Whitten, Brandon Whitten Institute founder and funder; ECU President Dr. Katricia Pierson; Dr. Kate Lang, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences; Dr. Regina Robertson, professor of human resources; Amy Nyberg, Brandon Whitten Institute staff and Pontotoc County Project Aware grant coordinator; Pontotoc County Drug Free Communities Coordinator AshLee Griffin and Holli Witherington, Brandon Whitten Institute executive director, Drug Free Communities grant director and ECU human resources faculty.

The Brandon Whitten Institute for Addiction and Recovery at East Central University will be funded for five more years at $250,000.

Reggie Whitten, the father of the late Brandon Whitten and founder of the institute, presented a check for $50,000 to the institute for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

“I’m so proud to assist the Brandon Whitten Institute and ECU. They are saving lives every day,” said Reggie Whitten. “I know my son, Brandon, would be proud to help as well.”

The reach of the institute has certainly been a great success, according to Holli Witherington, director and grants director for BWI.

“More than 10,000 people have been provided with education or outreach on addiction related issues through BWI,” Witherington said. “Since the institute was started in 2011, we’ve hosted anywhere from 20-30 educational or outreach events per year.”

Additional success stories of BWI include:

*More than 1,000 office “walk-ins” requesting services were helped.

*In partnership with the Pontotoc County Drug Free Coalition, BWI has hosted one of the largest addiction and recovery rallies in Oklahoma each year, “Step Out of the Darkness,” with over 500 people in attendance annually.

*More than 200 ECU students and employees were provided with free substance abuse services via BWI’s referral contract.

*A Graduate Certificate in Addictions Counseling was created and, to date, 16 ECU students have completed this certificate.

*Over 5,000 resources/handouts/giveaways are distributed by BWI each year.

*BWI has written for and received three federal grants for a total of $1.3 million.

The BWI has received numerous awards and its staff has received continual recognition from 2011-2016. Along the way, BWI staff members have achieved numerous certifications.

The Brandon Whitten Institute does not provide substance abuse treatment or counseling services.

However, BWI serves the campus and surrounding community in three basic ways:

  1. It is a prevention center for ECU’s campus. BWI aims to provide quality prevention and research services to the campus. They also collaborate with local partners to promote prevention efforts in the community.
  2. It is a training institute for addiction professionals, community members, campus students and staff. BWI offers frequent continuing education and outreach events for free or minimal fees to increase awareness of the impact of addiction and drug use and educate on best practices for treatment.
  3. It is a resource and referral center for anyone in need of information on substance use and abuse or anyone who needs to be linked with services. If someone is affected by addition and wants resourced to help, they are encouraged to call or come by the BWI office located in Room 109 of the Horace Mann Building.

Brandon Whitten passed away in a motorcycle accident in 2002 and the institute was launched for the purpose in raising awareness of Brandon’s addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol.


For Immediate Release: 

Contact: Brian Johnson or Amy Ford

                                East Central University Communications and Marketing

                              580-559-5650 or 405-812-1428 (cell)