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The Brandon Whitten Institute for Addiction & Recovery officially opened at East Central University Friday [MAY 27] with a ribbon cutting by the Ada Area Chamber of Commerce. The institute works to educate ECU students, as well as community agencies, schools and individuals, about substance abuse and recovery issues.BWI Ribbon Cutting

The BWI was established by Reggie Whitten, an Oklahoma City attorney whose 25-year-old son, Brandon, died in a motorcycle crash in 2002. He had fought addictions to prescription drugs and alcohol.

Whitten said ECU President John Hargrave came up with the idea of creating the Brandon Whitten Institute.

”I’ve known John Hargrave since we debated each other in high school,” Whitten said. “We reconnected the first day of law school in 1977 and have been good friends since. He has known my son Brandon since he was in diapers. Brandon and John’s son, Jeff, basically grew up together.

”I am so honored that John thought of this,” Whitten added. “It was 100 percent his idea and his vision. Without his vision and leadership the Brandon Whitten Institute would not be possible. Brandon would have loved this and would have been very pleased that we are doing something to fight this disease.

”I’m happy we are doing something to save lives.”

Hargrave said he witnessed first-hand what Brandon Whitten and his family got caught up in.

”It can get any of our kids,” he said.

Hargrave said he wants the BWI to bring the campus and community together to reduce substance abuse and fight addictions.

“Our mission is to assist individuals, groups and agencies both on campus and in our community as they provide top-quality addiction and recovery services through education, collaboration and research,” Hargrave said. “We want to ensure that all Oklahomans have access to an effective and respectful recovery-oriented system of care.”

Holli Witherington, executive director of the BWI, said the institute does not provide substance abuse treatment or counseling services but can offer referrals to those who want help. It does educate students and others about substance abuse and recovery issues through classes, lectures, trainings, meetings and other events.

The institute also focuses on prevention efforts, contemporary and relevant research and increasing the awareness of the impact of addiction and drug use.

“We want the Brandon Whitten Institute to empower students, helping professionals and collaborators to provide current, applicable and effective methods of addiction treatment, prevention and outreach,” Hargrave said.

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