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Basketball Full of Drugs, Cellphones Caught at NJ Halfway House

When officials were doing their rounds at a facility that provides education, treatment, and halfway house services to about 900 men and women through contracts with the New Jersey State Parole Board and the New Jersey Department of Corrections and New Jersey, they came across something unexpected: a basketball between two 20-foot fences that was stuffed with cellphones and drugs.

Specifically, the basketball held four cellphones and their chargers as well as four packs of synthetic marijuana, tobacco, and rolling papers. Officials surmise that the owner of the ball likely attempted to lob it over the 20-foot fences in an attempt to pass the contraband to residents, but the shot fell short.

It is not the first time that this facility has faced a problem like this. A couple months ago, an employee was under investigation for agreeing to smuggle drugs into the building for pay. That employee was fired and placed under arrest. Last year, the facility faced accusations of a range of drug-related problems, mismanagement, and inmate walkaways.

For family members who are concerned that their loved ones are struggling in an environment that may be exposed to contraband, officials emphasized that many programs deal with such difficulties and that the measures put into place to defend against the problem (namely, officials regularly searching the grounds) worked. But is this the case at all drug rehab programs?

Atmosphere

The facility described above is more of a detention facility than a drug treatment program and thus faces many of the issues that prisons face when it comes to people attempting to smuggle in contraband items. There are a number of difficulties that these types of facilities face that are less of a problem in smaller, private rehab programs. Many of the employees of these programs are in it for a paycheck rather than drawn to their career due to a desire to serve people in recovery. Also, most of the inhabitants at this 900-person facility are not necessarily there of their own volition. That is, they have been ordered to attend treatment or live in this program environment, and they may not recognize the value of genuinely committing themselves to recovery.

This is not to suggest that everyone enrolled in private, smaller drug rehab programs is excited about being there and therefore immune to the temptation to try and sneak drugs and other banned items into treatment – far from it. However, when the ratio of staff members to clients is low, and staff members are experts in their fields who are building a career in substance abuse treatment and care about the people they serve, the environment is much different. Rather than an “us against them” mentality, the focus should be more collaborative with staff members and clients working together for the clients’ health and wellbeing.

Always Some Level of Risk

On some level, no matter how nurturing the environment, there is always some risk that clients or their guests may attempt to smuggle in illicit substances. Addiction is an insidious disease, and even people who really want to heal and live life without drugs and alcohol struggle with intense cravings that can be overwhelming. It is this compulsive use of substances that, in part, defines addiction as a chronic disease, and though relapse is not mandatory, it is common. Before positive coping skills are learned in early recovery, clients are at higher risk of succumbing to these urges, so even the people who are the most interested in recovery may be at risk if they have the opportunity to drink or get high during treatment.

Remember: In smaller, private programs, this risk is minimized considerably. Family members should ask about what protective measures are in place to prevent this problem as much as possible.

Life Risks Exposure

There is no way to avoid it. Drugs and alcohol are everywhere. There is always an opportunity to relapse, and it is the function of rehab programs to provide clients with the skills they need to manage the urge to drink or use drugs without relapse, and also to know how to come back after a slip or relapse if it does occur.

How can you best protect against relapse in recovery?