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 approved today by the Assembly.
The bill, S-2377, would require 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 would 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.
“Students already struggle to meet the high social and academic demands of college life, and those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction need even more support to succeed on their road to full recovery,” said Senator Barnes (D-Middlesex). “If New Jersey’s colleges and universities follow the lead of Rutgers University in offering recovery housing and programs to their students, young adults across the state that are fighting their own battles with substance abuse and trying to earn a college degree will benefit from a clean and drug-free living environment.”
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 would include on-site counseling, mentoring, peer support, and other appropriate services for students recovering from substance abuse.
“By expanding recovery housing options and providing appropriate services for students across the state who need it, we are improving conditions to support their learning experience and advancement in their college careers,” said Senate Health Committee Chairman Vitale (D-Middlesex). “Addiction is a tough battle to fight and win, and 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 would have a four-year period to develop the substance abuse program. Under the bill, 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 legislation 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.
The bill was approved by the full Senate with a vote of 37-0 and the Assembly with a vote of 72-0. It now heads to the Governor’s desk.