The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) created a substance-free dorm for recovering addicts, but only one person has signed up to live there.
Substance-free living at colleges is becoming more common across the country, in large part due to the growing opioid epidemic. The Association of Recovery in Higher Education puts the current number of colleges that have substance-free housing at 53.
A survey of TCNJ students found 284 people, 4 percent of the school, are recovering addicts, yet, only one person signed up for the housing, Philly.com reported Monday. TCNJ created “Lion’s House” as a means to help recovering addicts who want to stay away from the partying lifestyle.
“We opened up the door and we thought they would come flooding in,” Christopher Freeman, who started the program, told Philly.com. “It didn’t happen that way.”
TCNJ started “recovery housing” during the 2015-2016 school year, in an off-campus house that could accommodate only five people.
Tom Beaver, head media relations manager for TCNJ, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the new Lion’s House will be located in an on-campus townhouse for the 2016-2017 school year and will have the capacity to house 10 students.
TCNJ officials believe merely creating a sober-dorm isn’t enough, and they need to establish a “community” of people first.
“We were really putting the cart before the horse, and we didn’t know,” Angela Lauer Chong, TCNJ dean of students, told Philly.com.
Commissioner of the state Department of Human Services, Elizabeth Connolly, said she hopes dorms like Lion’s House can help change the stigma attached to those seeking help.
“[W]e haven’t really eliminated stigma — there’s still stigma out there — but we chip away at it as we create these programs,” Connolly told Philly.com.
Jesse Dariano told Philly.com he wished this was an option years ago. Dariano failed out of a New Jersey community college before getting clean and enrolling at TCNJ, where he made the president’s list.
Dariano thinks the lack of enrollment in Lion’s House was due to poor marketing and that people simply “weren’t aware of its existence.”
Gov. Chris Christie signed a law in 2015 that requires state colleges that have 25 percent of their students living on campus to provide substance-free housing within the next four years.
“The data is clear,” Democratic State Sen. Joseph Vitale told NJ.com in 2015. “Schools that have this kind of housing have higher GPAs and lower dropout rates.”
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