NJ Senate Committee To Consider Charter Schools For Students With Substance Abuse Problems

State Sen. Ray Lesniak

State Sen. Ray Lesniak

TRENTON – The Senate Education Committee will take up legislation today authored by Senator Raymond Lesniak allowing for the creation of recovery charter schools for students with substance abuse problems. Appearing before the panel in support of S-2974 will be a number of experts, advocates and recent students, including members of Young People In Recovery, a support group that helps young people overcome addiction.

“Schools that are devoted to students in recovery can provide the academic services and assistance that will help them grow and flourish free of addiction to drugs and alcohol,” said Senator Lesniak, a long-time proponent of recovery programs and services, including drug courts. “This is sober schooling for young people with substance abuse problems they want to overcome.”

The legislation would permit charter schools to be established exclusively for students in recovery. Emerging as a means of aiding the success of young people trying to overcome addiction, the practice started at Brown and Rutgers universities where dormitories were designated for students in recovery. The success of the college residential facilities led to the creation of recovery high schools in communities across the country.

Offering students a learning environment removed from the peer pressure and the drug and alcohol use that contributed to their substance abuse dramatically increases their chances for a successful recovery, according to substance abuse experts. Specialized services and the support of other students in recovery are added factors that can help sustain long-term recovery, the program’s supporters say.

The committee hearing, scheduled for 10:00 a.m. in Committee Room 6 of the State House Annex, will include testimony from the following supporters of the bill:

  • Pamela Capaci – Executive Director of Prevention Links, a non-profit organization working to prevent substance-abuse in all ages and communities in Union County
  • Mayor Jamel Holley – Mayor Holley of Roselle holds a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice from New Jersey City University and a Master’s in Public Administration from Kean University. Mayor Holley serves as Chairman and CEO of the Jamel C. Holley Civic Association, a non-profit organization that provides resources and programs to residents of Roselle.
  • Charlene Bathelus – A member of the Elizabeth Board of Education, an Adjunct Professor at Kean University and the Volunteer and Community Partnership Coordinator at Prevention Links where she oversees two community civic action groups in Plainfield and Rahway.
  • Judge Barnett E. Hoffman – A judge on the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for New Jersey since August 2012. He was the longest sitting criminal division judge in the State of New Jersey who was influential in establishing a successful in-patient drug program at the Middlesex County jail, being the first judicially run program of its kind.
  • Devin Fox –Executive Director of Young People in Recovery and the newly elected Vice Chair of the Raymond Lesniak ESH Recovery Charter High School. He is a Rutgers graduate, where he was a member of the Rutgers Collegiate Recovery Program.
  • Peter Barnas – A member of Young People in Recovery – New Jersey, a recent graduate of Rutgers with a degree in criminal justice and a former member of the Rutgers Collegiate Recovery Program.
  • Tom Magjuka-Egan –A current student at Rutgers/Camden and a member of Young People in Recovery- New Jersey.

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