GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — A dorm room on Stockton University’s campus doesn’t look any different from the many others surrounding it, but its normal appearance belies its importance.
Instead of just being a place to relax, sleep and do homework, the space occupied by three young men and women is the university’s first dorm in its recovery housing program, which was established this fall to provide housing specifically for students in recovery from addiction.
“The recovery program is building a sense of community at Stockton that before wasn’t really articulated,” said Don Cassidy, director of counseling services at the school’s Wellness Center. “The program helps students maintain recovery and be successful in their academics.”
With increasing concern over the rise in addiction and overdose cases, experts say programs like recovery housing can give people a chance to rebuild their lives after active addiction and pursue a college education while getting access to therapy, 12-step programs and sober activities.
Gov. Chris Christie signed a law in August 2015 that requires colleges with significant on-campus housing populations to develop specialized student recovery housing by fall 2019. Colleges and universities can dedicate a floor, wing or other areas within a dormitory for the program.
Stockton’s program started with three students, with a fourth on a waiting list. It is a collaboration between the Wellness Center and Residential Life, with support by several administrators.
Cassidy said the university modeled its program after one at Rutgers University, which was established in 1988 as one of the earliest recovery housing programs in the country.
Madison Lawn, a graduate student intern at Stockton’s wellness center, provides one-on-one therapy sessions to students in the housing program and others on campus who may struggle with substance-use disorders.
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She said the new program not only encourages continuing therapy but gives recovering students the opportunity to foster friendships with people who are like-minded in having a sober college experience.
“The program helps coordinate sober activities and events open to all students, which helps them feel connected and involved in maintaining recovery,” Lawn said. “We do yoga, meditation, an escape room or a healthy eating class. We want this all to empower their intrinsic motivation to succeed.”
Cassidy said the pilot year of the recovery housing program, which began this fall, will enable directors at the Wellness Center and Residential Life to see which services work best in order to develop the program further.
Stockton’s recovery housing program was created in part with funding from the university itself and a recent $10,000 Seeds of Hope grant from Transforming Youth Recovery, a nonprofit that focuses on students, education and substance-use awareness.
Christie announced last month that $8 million in state funding would go toward college and university on-campus recovery programs.
State officials last week made 40 recommendations on how legislators, state departments, tre…
Lisa Laitman, director of alcohol and other drug assistance at Rutgers University, helped bring recovery housing to the university in the 1980s after recognizing aspects of college culture, including drinking, drug use and partying, may threaten a student’s recovery from addiction.
“There is a strong peer component at the heart of successful collegiate recovery programs, a way to develop friendships and a support network,” she said. “So on campus, it’s not a choice between sitting in their room by themselves or going to a party. There’s another choice in hanging out with friends who are not engaged in drinking and drug use.”
Rutgers’ program grew from four students in its first year to about 25 students today, though Laitman said in actuality the university’s recovery community is about double in size and includes students who commute or live in off-campus housing.
Using Rutgers’ model, the program at Stockton is open to students of any age who want to live in on-campus housing in a healthy environment for their recovery. If students relapse or use drugs, the program connects them to treatment centers where they can receive more extensive care.
Joe Kerstetter, licensed counselor at Stockton’s Wellness Center, said he hopes the recovery housing program helps students develop the tools and build the support systems they will need after graduation.
“It’s naive to think that out of 9,000 students, only three of them are in recovery. There are more out there that could benefit from the program,” he said. “They can show their friends that they can have a good time while being sober and maintaining a recovery lifestyle in college.”
1 of 71
Katelyn Marie Elwell, 18, of Mays Landing
“She was a loving friend to everyone she met and had an infectious laugh.” -Susan Elwell, her mother
Ashley Gitto, 25, of the Lower Bank section of Washington Township.
“We will love you and miss you FOREVER 💔” -Matt, Kathy & Courtney Gitto
Andy Dietrich, 37, of Margate
“Loved life and playing volleyball on the beach with his brothers.”
Michael Firrincilli, 37, of Galloway Township
Died from a heroin overdose on Sept. 28, 2015. He left behind his two daughters, 4 and 19, his long-time girlfriend and his family. He is missed every single day.
“While he wasn’t able to save himself from addiction he did save 5 lives from organ donation and that helped us through his loss because he was the type to give you the shirt off his back and feed whoever needed to eat. He had the biggest heart.”
Raven Kunze, 30, of Toms River
Kunze passed away from an accidental overdose on May 2, 2015.
Melissa A. Endicott, 31, of Absecon
01/14/1986 — 07/02/2017
“She was full of life, ambitious, and had the biggest heart. My sister was more than her addiction and I always want her to be remembered for the beautiful soul she was. Rest peacefully my guardian angel.” -Amanda Endicott, her sister
Samantha Jo Bender, 23, of Gibbstown
Died April 27, 2006
She had a 4-year-old daughter.
Jenny Renee Turner, 32, of Woodbury
8/7/74 - 7/31/07
Turner she passed on July 21, 2007 in Camden after being sober for almost 3 years and left behind a son.
"Not a day goes by we do not miss her and the wonderful caring person she was. I love you Jenny." -Desiree Turner, her sister
Sean Hartley, 33, of Somers Point
Hartley passed away of a heroin overdose on March 15, 2015.
“Hopefully everyone with an addiction sees the pictures of our loved ones that are gone,will seek out the help that they need to overcome their addiction. I miss my son everyday, he will forever be in my heart.” -Patti Nugent, his mother.
Paul (Randy) Lacey, 53, of Egg Harbor Township
“He battled with his addiction to heroin for 10 years. Before that, my father was clean and sober from all mind altering substances for 25 years. He was in a car accident and prescribed pills, which lead to shooting heroin. He left behind his wife of 35 years, his daughter and two grandchildren. Fly high daddy fly high! I hope I make you proud!” -Brandy Henkes, his daughter
James A. “Grizzly” Clark III, 26, of Northfield
Clark overdosed on heroin at the West Palm Beach Airport in Florida and passed away on Dec. 24, 2014.
“He was coming home to Northfield for Christmas to see his son, JJ.” -Donna Clark, his mother
James Matthew Robinson, 27, of Sea Isle City
Died July 7, 2013
“We miss you every single day.”
Justin Toscano, 24, of Egg Harbor Township
4-5-86 to 4-21-12
“Justin was my boyfriend for seven years. We lived together in Philadelphia after I finished college so I could find a job. He went to rehab on Valentine’s Day 2012. After rehab, he seemed like he was finally ready to get clean and almost had a new outlook on life, even after only being approved for a 28-day inpatient rehabilitation program. Unfortunately, Justin relapsed one day while I was at work and I found him dead in our apartment when I got home. Justin was a Union 351 Electrician. The most important thing in his life was working hard, taking care of and being with his family, friends and me. I miss him and think about him everyday.” -Julia Mastalski, his girlfriend
Matthew Mason, 24, of Egg Harbor Township
Mason died three years ago from an overdose.
“There is not one day that goes by that my heart does not ache to just hug him one more time! I love and miss you so much!” -Theresa Allmond-Mason, his mother
Josanna Feldman-Smith, 34, of Galloway Township
“With a hole in our hearts that will never heal. Love always, Dad.” -George Smith, her father
Timothy F. Milam, 31, of Vineland
January 14, 1984 – October 24, 2015
“There’s always gonna be another mountain I’m always gonna wanna make it move Always gonna be an uphill battle Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose Ain’t about how fast I get there Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side It’s the climb” Love, Mom and Dad, sisters, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews
Christian McCarthy, 45, of Millville
Graduated from The College of New Jersey with honors and Widner Law School.
Died Aug. 18, 2015 of a heroin overdose. Missed very much by his family.
Fred Taylor, 46, of Haddon Heights
Unfortunately passed away on Aug, 21 due to heroin. He did save one life by donating his organs.
Daniel T. Michael, 30, of the Pomona section of Galloway Township
5-19-86 to 6-21-16
Hailey Gabrielle Jones, 19, of the Smithville section of Galloway Township
Passed away Aug. 13, 2014.
"Hailey was a beautiful, vibrant girl whose smile and infectious laugh could light up any room. I miss her more every long day...”
Beau Michael Reilly, 21, of Egg Harbor Township
"Always in our hearts."
Ryan B. Beard, 29, of Point Pleasant
Beloved son and grandson
Rutgers University Graduate
Outstanding baseball player and beloved coach
Jesse Flynn, 22, of Sayreville
"Our son Jesse passed away from a heroin overdose on May 29, 2016. He left behind a daughter only 8 months old and a family who loved him deeply. He was kind, witty and full of dreams! If he had a choice he wouldn't have chosen this disease. He had too much to live for!" -Linda Flynn, his mother
Thomas John Latham, 24, of Hamilton Township
“You are always and forever in our hearts. Your light will always shine! Shine on Tom! We love you!!” -his parents
Mark Aishton, 33, of Galloway Township
“The world will never know what these young men could have accomplished. It is not just our loss but the country’s as well.” -Marilyn Aishton, his mother
Dan Miller, 27, of Mays Landing
“Dan passed 6 years ago due to a drug overdose. Our family looks forward to the day God reunites us all.” -Dave Miller, his father.
George John Lees, 33, of Galloway
Dec. 8, 1982 to April 12, 2016
"One month from his masters. He was dedicated to higher education and he loved his son with all his heart."
Harry F. Snyder, 25, of Marmora
“He was dearly loved and will be forever missed and grieved.” -Maureen and John Snyder, his parents
Michael Hesselbach Jr., 20, Saint Charles, Missouri
Died from a heroin, fentanyl overdose
Brandon D. Cooper, 29, Villas section of Lower Township
"A quote comes to mind: 'Goodbyes hurt the most, when the story was not finished...' It’s up to us, your family and friends, to share your story and keep your memory alive. By raising awareness of this growing epidemic, hopefully we will reduce the stigma surrounding addiction and will help someone regain control of their life. We will continue to share your story, your memory will live on and your death will not be for nothing, we promise you."
Tyler Jay Onesty, 22, of Ocean City
"Loved and respected by many! His story is already saving others as he tried to do till the end of his battle with addiction."
Steven James Schmincke, 26, of Mays Landing
7-4-89 / 3-26-16
"Addiction cannot define Steven's life. He was a good hearted son, brother, father and fiancé. There was so much more to you. We miss and love you Steven." -Bill and Tammy Schmincke, his parents
Dylan Amodio, 24, of West Collingswood Heights
Overdosed on heroin.
"Son, brother, nephew, uncle, step-son, grandson and friend. Thank you. I don't want him to ever be forgotten." -Jane Pinos, his mother
Briana DeSalis, 22, of Philadelphia
She was originally from Mays Landing.
"Lost my angel 02/17. Love and miss her." -Timothy DeSalis
Alexander K. Platt, 24, of Cream Ridge
7/3/1991 - 12/5/2015
"Forever 24, loved and missed beyond measure. Our lives are forever changed without you here with us.
He fought hard started with alcohol in middle school and escalated to heroin. 13 plus rehabs, 2 sober living, 11 overdoses. Maximum time clean and sober was approx. 3 years, 8 months. Related and gone in less than a year.
This disease needs to stop!"
Joshua Gillard, 27, Bay City, Michigan
Gillard accidentally overdosed on March 28, 2017 on fentanyl.
"He has three beautiful children and the love of his life, Sylvia. Deeply missed by family and friends."
Zachary Harrison Wolfe, 24, of Northfield
"Loved beyond words and missed beyond measure."
Justin Curtis Wilsoncroft, 26, Lancaster, Ohio
Wilsoncroft died from a lethal dose of fentanyl on Dec. 11, 2016 in Lancaster Ohio.
"The worst day of my life finding him that morning. Addiction affects the whole family, our lives have changed forever. Forever 26, missed and loved forever."
James Craig Matzen, 24, Troy, New York
"He is deeply missed." -Amanda Kernahan, his sister
King Shaffer, 49, of Marlton
12/07/66 to 10/29/16
John Ryan Chance, 33, Hammonton
7-23-83 to 11-5-16
"He was very caring, funny and charismatic. He leaves behind an 8-year-old son, a sister and his parents. He is forever loved and missed."
Died March 12, 2017
Tyler Berg, 25, of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin
Berg passed away of a heroin overdose on Feb., 8, 2012
Robert O. Barber, 23, of Denver, Colorado
Barber died on Aug. 21, 2011 from a heroin overdose. He had just finished a 2 month rehabilitation program and had a steady job.
"Rob was a very caring and loving young man. He was a talented soccer player with college team experience. He had many friends and a fun loving personality. His parents and sister, along with many other relatives and friends, miss him every day." -Janice Barber, his mother
Thomas Martin Kelly, 34, of Charlotte, North Carolina
5/23/81 - 12/31/16
"My beautiful second son and father of four."
Shaun Anthony Selby, of Lancaster, Ohio
"Shaun left us way to soon. Loved and missed by many."
Louis De Simone, 26, of Estell Manor
De Simone died on April 26, 2010 from an accidental overdose of Xanax and Methodone.
“He was so full of life with a larger than life sense of humor!!” -Megan De Graaf
Paul Robert Mingin Jr., 34, of Millville
April-9-1982 — May-9-2016
“Your presence is always missed, but our memories keep you alive! Love, your family.”