Program Areas

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse, and its related problems—poverty, crime, homelessness, unemployment and child abuse—are pervasive in Newark.  One out of six adults in the city is a convicted felon; more than 40% of their crimes are associated with the use of illegal drugs or alcohol.  Unfortunately, many substance abusers either do not seek treatment or do not stay long enough to successfully complete it.  Stakeholders including Essex County Department of Citizen Services, the State Department of Corrections, State Parole Board, State Addiction Services, the City of Newark, the Bridge to Recovery (a coalition of the United Way and community and faith-based organizations and governmental units providing or participating in drug treatment), and The Nicholson Foundation joined together to make treatment more accessible, expand the options, and improve retention and post treatment supports to enhance long-term recovery outcomes.


Temporary Foster Care
The partners found that many parents with substance abuse disorders were not enrolling in residential drug treatment for fear of losing their children to foster care.  When these parents enter residential treatment, their children become the responsibility of the foster care system; their public assistance is terminated and, with no means of support, most end up losing their housing.  Ironically, this means that when parents complete residential treatment, they do not have the resources to establish a new home, without which they are unable to regain custody of their children.  This very real risk dissuades many parents with substance abuse disorders from seeking the help they require to improve their lives and those of their children.

Essex County Department of Citizen Services and the Bridge to Recovery, with The Nicholson Foundation as funder, implemented a pilot program in which relatives or other guardians are appointed to care for children of parents in residential treatment rather than placing the children in foster care; the parents’ welfare payments are not terminated, but rather temporarily diverted to the caretakers.  Once these parents successfully complete treatment, they reclaim their welfare benefits, enabling them to reestablish a home for themselves and reunite with their children.  The success of the pilot led the State of New Jersey to change its guidelines to adopt this new program policy.  (Entry dated summer 2006)


Funding Eligibility
Essex County residents who seek substance abuse treatment must typically wait six months to a year before admission because of the limited number of treatment slots funded by the Bureau of State Addiction Services.  The partnership learned that many substance abusers on the waiting lists for treatment are under or unemployed and therefore eligible to have their treatment funded by Medicaid, if they are referred to treatment by the Essex County Division of Welfare.  With funding from Medicaid, treatment programs could significantly increase the number of substance abusers served and reduce their waiting list.

In collaboration with the Bridge, Essex County Department of Citizen Services, and New Jersey’s Departments of Corrections and Parole, The Nicholson Foundation is providing technical assistance and funding for County staff to determine the public assistance eligibility of County residents on the waiting lists of substance abuse treatment programs.  The Nicholson Foundation is also providing technical assistance to the drug treatment providers to help them connect proactively with the County’s Division of Welfare to secure the Medicaid funding.  (Entry dated fall 2006)


The lack of treatment continuity, as incarcerated substance abusers move from drug treatment programs in prison, to halfway houses, to treatment programs in the community, is a major factor in relapse and recidivism.  A partnership of Rutgers Medical College, the State Department of Corrections, State Addiction Services and Integrity House, with The Nicholson Foundation as funder, is designing a model treatment program that will offer a continuum of integrated treatment services while an inmate is in prison and as he or she transitions to the community upon discharge.  Approaches to treatment will be consistent in all programs along the continuum.  Furthermore, treatment will be individualized for each recovering addict, and integrated case records and coordination of care will provide continuity so progress made at previous treatment programs can be reinforced and strengthened at the next level of care.  The new program is expected to be implemented early in 2007.  (Entry dated fall 2006)