College life poses new challenges for all students, however it can be especially stressful for students struggling to recover from alcohol and drug abuse. This fall, Montclair State launches Residents in Recovery, a new housing option for students wishing to live in a supportive, substance-free community.
A 2015 New Jersey law mandated that public institutions of higher education establish substance abuse recovery housing programs by 2019. “We are implementing a program before the law takes effect because we believe that offering students the support they need to lead a positive lifestyle is important and can be critical to their success both inside and outside of the classroom,” says Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life Karen L. Pennington. “Our program will provide students with access to a substance-free living environment, as well as to educational programs and services that complement their pursuit of a wholesome lifestyle while on campus.”
While all University residence halls are drug- and smoke-free, and all except the Village at Little Falls, where all residents are of legal age, are alcohol-free, the Residents in Recovery living community reflects the University’s dedication to giving all students an opportunity to live on-campus in housing that meets their specific needs. The University’s substance-free Wellness Community is another option for students wishing to explore healthier life choices through a wide variety of programs.
“Many students in recovery think living on campus isn’t a realistic option due to the possibility of being exposed to alcohol and drugs in their residences,” explains Residence Life’s Assistant Director of Housing Services Kevin Schafer. “This housing and our trained staff are there to support them through their journey.”
Residents in Recovery housing will give participants the academic, developmental and recovery support they need to succeed. “Our goal is to provide a nurturing environment where students can learn how to balance academic and personal aspirations while enjoying an authentic college experience,” explains Coordinator of Health Promotion Marie Cascarano.
According to Staff Psychologist and Coordinator of Alcohol and Drug Programs Kristine De Jesus, students living in recovery housing are less likely to feel isolated or different from peers who do not share the experience of being in recovery. “This increases their likelihood of academic success,” she explains. “In fact, students participating in college recovery programs are more likely to graduate within four years than the average college student.”
De Jesus will serve as a hands-on advisor to the Residents in Recovery students. “I’ll meet with them each week as a group to talk about their experiences and to make sure that our recovery community is meeting their needs,” she says.
On-campus recovery services and programs are available to all students who need support – whether they live on- or off-campus. University Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers assessment, counseling, recovery coaching and groups for students. “We also offer Exploring Change and Health Options (ECHO), a program that gives students the opportunity to explore their relationship with substances and provides strategies to make changes in that relationship,” says De Jesus.
“Our recovery program is different from other schools as we are not following a traditional 12-step model,” notes Schafer. “We are using a wellness model to look at the whole student.” The Residents in Recovery living community will also focus on the physical, social, emotional, intellectual, financial and spiritual dimensions of wellness by offering programs on stress, sleep, nutrition, sexual health, alcohol and drugs, as well as weekly yoga, meditation and other activities.
“Health is the foundation of success – both while in college and in the future,” says Cascarano. “Residents in Recovery gives students in recovery the resources and tools they need to prevent relapses and ultimately succeed in life.”
For more information about Montclair State University’s collegiate recovery program, visit www.montclair.edu/recovery.