TSG Rep. and Philly city government official speak to The Tab about on-campus recovery housing
Joseph George Basile III has proposed a resolution that would offer students a safe on-campus living space away from drugs and alcohol
Temple Student Government (TSG) Representative, Joseph George Basile III, has introduced a resolution for on-campus recovery housing to assist students fighting addiction. Drug addiction, notably the opioid crisis, has become a serious issue of concern nationally and in the City of Philadelphia.
The real and fatal consequences of addiction have been felt across the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 47,055 people died from drug overdoses in 2014 with 61 percent of those deaths involving opioids.
In Philadelphia drug overdose deaths have surged sharply since 2011, in part because of the high purity and lower cost of heroin in and around Philadelphia. Nearly 700 deaths from drug overdoses occurred in 2015 and an estimated 840 deaths in 2016 (double the amount of homicides in 2015 and triple the amount in 2016). More recently, in Philadelphia, 35 individuals died due to drug overdoses which occurred between the first and fifth of December 2016.
Drug addiction and the opioid epidemic has brought tragedy throughout Philadelphia, but especially in the North Philadelphia and Kensington neighborhoods. City government officials, like Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, have decided to take action to combat the issue. In his 2017 budget address, Kenney proposed creating 83 units of supportive housing to assist Philadelphians fighting mental illness and recovering from drug addiction. Mayor Kenney’s initiative is also part of the fight to end homelessness in the City of Philadelphia.
Similarly, Basile’s TSG resolution would offer students a safe living space away from drugs and alcohol on-campus. “The option that we’re exploring is a dormitory, so it would be a residence life issue. We would try to keep the students who do enter this option as long as they possibly need,” Basile said.
The recovery housing initiative would be a combination of peer-based and on-staff therapists and counselors for treatment. Therapists would come from Tuttleman Counseling Services which will soon be addressing it’s short-staffing issue because of another resolution recently passed by TSG.
The resolution recently passed a vote in the Student Life Committee, but still must come up for a vote on TSG’s parliament floor.
When asked about what pushed him to draft the resolution Basile thought back on the stories he’d heard from others, “I spoke with a few students who were in their own recovery and they were expressing struggles because the only clean living LLC that we do have is in South Philly.” He continued, “Student stories, anecdotes, and a mother reached out to me. Her son was at Temple but he had to go to the University of Southern Maine because he wasn’t able to continue his recovery at Temple. He was facing a lot of temptation and different obstacles to his recovery at Temple.”
The fight against addiction is also personal for Basile. “My father is in his own recovery right now, from painkillers. That had a little personal salience as well,” he explained.
The Mayor’s Director of Chronic Homelessness, Mr. David Holloman, praised the idea in an exclusive interview with The Tab. “There’s definitely a need for more recovery housing. If you get it passed through the parliament, I think that’s going to be huge. Really huge.”
Holloman emphasized how far there is to go in fighting the crisis. Accessibility to quality treatment and recovery housing is challenging to come by. “There’s only seven licensed methadone clinics in the City of Philadelphia. And on average, each of those methadone clinics maybe see about four to five hundred individuals a day.”
Although the initiative seems like a win-win for everyone involved, currently only 50 U.S. colleges offer recovery housing. One of the striking reasons universities are reluctant to implement on-campus recovery housing is the fear of tarnishing a school’s reputation. Director Holloman commented, “Schools are hesitant to do that because they’ll promote saying that they have this problem on the campus.” Later he added, “It’s something definitely needed on college campuses. I work in the hospital also, and so I see a number of youth that come in, that are struggling with their substance abuse. Their parents don’t even know. And a lot of them are college kids.”
Basile remarked that calls for a resolution like this have been over a decade in the making. “We’ve been having calls for recovery housing since 2005, so it’s definitely been long in the works. Plus, the administration has a task force looking at this right now.”
Representative Basile’s proposed resolution aims to take the stigma away from individuals recovering from addiction and the institutions they attend. “We know it’s an incredibly volatile environment for someone in recovery,” Basile commented.
“One of the crucial aspects of recovery housing is that no one knows that the housing allocated is actually deemed ‘recovery housing.’ This is done so those in recovery aren’t subjected to stigma.”
“We have this reputation of diversity university, and this is part of that.” Basile continued, “The problem is starting to swallow every part of the city and it’s starting to close in on us. If we don’t do anything it’s going to become a rampant epidemic, which it essentially already is.”