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Bill Would Improve Access To Recovery Schools

Advocates express support for the measure.
Phil Gregory

Advocates are urging New Jersey lawmakers to enact proposed legislation that would help students trying to recover from drug addiction.

The measure would allow any child clinically diagnosed with substance use disorder to transfer to a recovery school that provides programs and peer support to help them stay off drugs.

Gina Vaccaro says her daughter returned to Livingston High School after completing an inpatient treatment program and the school board rejected her request to transfer the state’s only recovery high school in Roselle.

“Her anxiety and depression had become heightened being back in that environment. It became clear it was not conducive to her recovery. She was walking into bathrooms on kids getting high, kids getting drunk.”

Donna DeStefano is a parent advocate. She says students trying to avoid relapsing into drug use need a supportive school environment.

“When I talk to my daughter and a lot of their friends they say you know what I’ve gone back to our class and there’s been maybe a bag of pills where somebody would just say what do you want. You’re going to have that and the adolescent mind and peer pressure it’s just too much for them.”

Pamela Capaci is the CEO of Prevention Links, the agency that started the state’s only recovery high school in Roselle. She says it provides an alternative school setting with a structured plan of recovery and peer support.

“One of the primary reasons why this model works is because the students are able to build a new peer group of non-drug using friends and they can transition from adolescence into young adulthood naturally just like any other student.” 

Advocates are hoping other districts create recovery school programs. One is being planned in Matawan.