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Barnes-Vitale Bill Requiring Colleges to Provide Substance Abuse Recovery Housing Now Law

Press Release 8/11/15

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Peter J. Barnes, III and Senator Joseph F. Vitale that would require New Jersey’s colleges and universities to provide substance abuse recovery housing options was signed into law yesterday.

The law, S-2377, requires four-year public colleges and universities in which at least 25% of the undergraduate students live in on-campus housing to establish a substance abuse recovery housing program. The program will provide a supportive substance-free dormitory environment that recognizes the unique risks and challenges that recovering students face and offers support programs to assist them in their efforts to remain substance-free.

“Combining the everyday struggles of college students with the challenges of recovering from drug and alcohol addiction is a formula for disaster without the necessary support and services to aid them in their full recovery,” said Senator Barnes (D-Middlesex). “With the right kind of support system, college and university students who are recovering will have the chance to get back on their feet and lead healthy lives. This program is not only essential for their health and wellbeing but also crucial for their chance to navigate through the challenges of college with the right tools to succeed.”

Recovery housing offers college students who are in recovery and living on campus an opportunity to live in a community that provides the necessary emotional, social, and environmental support to maintain sobriety through onsite counseling, mentoring, and peer support. Rutgers University in New Brunswick and Newark and William Paterson University already offer programs where students can have a typical college experience while surrounding themselves with people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

The program will include on-site counseling, mentoring, peer support, and other appropriate services for students recovering from substance abuse.

“We must expand recovery housing options for New Jersey’s college students who are in need of services that can help end their substance use,” said Senate Health Committee Chairman Vitale (D-Middlesex). “This is why providing a welcoming environment where they can be surrounded by others who can relate to their struggles is important. Addiction is a tough battle to fight and win, and the demands of college life are exceptionally high. If we can alleviate some of the burden from these young adults who are pursuing a college education and trying to succeed, we should do so.”

Higher education institutions have a four-year period to develop the substance abuse program. Under the law, an institution may designate a floor, wing, or other designated area within a dormitory building for the substance abuse recovery housing program, and is not required to designate an entire dormitory building for the program.

The law is part of a bipartisan 21-bill package led by Senator Vitale aimed at tackling the heroin and prescription drug epidemic that is occurring across the state. The package focuses on the need to improve paths to evidence-based education, prevention, treatment and recovery efforts for those addicted to opiates.

It was approved by the full Senate with a vote of 40-0 and the Assembly with a vote of 72-0 in June. The law takes effect immediately.

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