By Mylin Batipps
On Thursday, Dec. 4, Governor Chris Christie granted $245,000 to the College in support of students battling alcoholism, substance abuse and mental health issues, according to Jennifer Velez, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services.
“We often times don’t have a good opportunity to come and announce funding for many things, and this is something so critically important,” Velez said.
Velez, as well as representatives from the School of Nursing, School of Education and Student Affairs, assembled in Loser Hall to discuss the opportunities the grant will provide to the College’s student body.
The grant, better known as the Recovery Support and Environmental Management Strategies to Prevent and Reduce Substance Abuse on College Campuses, will assist in establishing housing for students in recovery stages from alcoholism and substance abuse. The funds will also assist in implementing more late-night programs as part of its Environmental Strategies program, serving as an alternative for students.
This is a competitive grant, according to Ellen Lovejoy from the Department of Human Services. Both the College and Rutgers University, in their applications, demonstrated the most valuable programs for students suffering from substance abuse and mental health problems, resulting in the grant being awarded to further enhance their programs. The effectiveness of the College’s Alcohol and Drug Education Program in particular, as wells as its Counseling and Psychological Services, were factors taken into consideration for the grant.
“(The College) had to have a pretty substantial existing program and a willingness to buy in by the leadership and administration,” Lovejoy said.
The National Institution of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported in 2014 that over 1,800 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related injuries, according to Velez. Addressing the problem of alcohol and substance abuse is something that all colleges and universities should regularly examine as closely as possible, including the College, she said.
The TCNJ Clinic is just one of the departments on campus fully supporting the College’s move to achieve an even greater sense of awareness of substance abuse and mental health. Alexa Carvalho, a graduate student in the counselor education program and intern of the Clinic, is excited to assist in the up and coming programs.
“Coming right into this graduate program, I understand a lot of the drinking behaviors, the drug use and how that has a negative impact on not only the individuals, but their families as well,” Carvalho said. “Being able to address those needs within the community will be a great pleasure.”
Carvalho and the TCNJ Clinic will bring their Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) Recovery programs to the students who will be living in the designated recovery housing. The programs take place three days a week and serve as alternatives for students uncomfortable participating in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, Carvalho said.
According to Director Nancy Scott, the TCNJ Clinic is well on its way to figuring out the logistics of the housing.
“We will be starting small, so we’re hoping to have six to seven students in a house,” Scott said. “We actually met with Campus Police to figure out where the best place to have it would be. We’re going to use one of our off-campus homes, but it will be very close to campus — within walking distance.”
In regard to the late-night events, the College hopes to work with the Office of Recreation to coordinate athletic events like volleyball, in addition to organizing movie nights and other various activities.
“The 10-12 p.m. time period … that’s a critical time period for students,” Scott said, explaining that most instances of alcohol abuse occur during the late hours. “That’s when they’re just getting ready to go out and do something. So we want to make sure they have good alternatives.”
According to Velez, the N.J. Department of Human Resources and the College is trying to put students’ well-being first through the launch of the new recovery programs.
“The safety of our students is one of the highest priorities, if not the highest priority,” Velez said.