Thanks to a gift from Tigger House Foundation, a counselor will be on call in the emergency department seven days a week

Heroin and opiate addiction are raging in New Jersey, and Riverview Medical Center is taking a new step to fight the fire.

Thanks to a gift of $120,000 from the Monmouth County-based nonprofit Tigger House Foundation, an addictions counselor position will be added to the Red Bank hospital’s emergency department. A licensed chemical dependency counselor would be on call seven days a week to work with those in need at the Alton A. Hovnanian Emergency Care Center.

“The addiction epidemic in New Jersey, and specifically Monmouth County, cannot be ignored,” Timothy J. Hogan, president of Riverview Medical Center and Bayshore Community Hospital, said in a statement. “The generosity of the Tigger House Foundation will impact so many in our immediate community who turn to Riverview for care.”

Tigger House was founded by Middletown residents Lisa and Rick Stavola in 2013 after their 25-year-old son Rick Jr. (whose nickname was Tigger) died of a heroin overdose. In an interview with the Asbury Park Press last year, the Stavolas explained how emergency rooms were ill-equipped to deal with the recovery part of drug addiction. The nonprofit raised its profile by adding former New York Giants defensive lineman Christian Peter, a Middletown native, to its foundation board.

"That’s what Tigger House is all about: the public awareness and being able to supplement the recovery through donations," Rick Stavola said.

The Tigger House Foundation is holding a major fundraiser, A Night Under the Stars, Oct. 1 at the Edgewater Beach and Cabana Club. To learn more about the event or the nonprofit, visit www.tiggerhouse.org.

For more on supporting behavioral health services at Riverview Medical Center, contact Jennifer Smith, senior executive director, at 732-751-5115 or JenniferL.Smith@hackensackmeridian.org.

Staff writer Jerry Carino: jcarino@gannettnj.com.



Press release from Riverview Medical Center Foundation

The nonprofit Riverview Medical Center Foundation has announced a gift of $120,000 from the Tigger House Foundation that will support the addition of an Addictions Counselor in the hospital’s emergency department.

The addition of a licensed chemical dependency counselor to the Alton A. Hovnanian Emergency Care Center would provide timely and critical assessment and outreach to patients during severe times of need. Funding from Tigger House will be instrumental in helping Riverview create this new position, ensuring a licensed Addictions Counselor will be available in the hospital’s emergency department to address patients’ needs in a timely manner, seven days a week.

Tigger House Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to achieving a positive impact by reducing the death rate of heroin and opiate addiction. The organization was founded by Lisa and Rick Stavola in 2013 after they tragically lost their 25 year-old son, Rick Jr. (also known as Tigger), to a heroin overdose.

“Losing Rick Jr. was absolutely devastating and heartbreaking for our family,” shares Lisa and Rick. “His memory inspires us every day to do whatever it takes so others don’t have to suffer a similar loss. Making this gift to Riverview gives us hope and promise for a future where fewer people are impacted by the horrific realities of addiction.”

“The addiction epidemic in New Jersey, and specifically Monmouth County, cannot be ignored,” says Timothy J. Hogan, FACHE, president of Riverview Medical Center and Bayshore Community Hospital. “The generosity of the Tigger House Foundation will impact so many in our immediate community who turn to Riverview for care. This is a huge first step to achieving our long-term mission to reduce the deadly impact of substance abuse.”

The Booker Behavioral Health Center at Riverview currently offers comprehensive services and follow-up for people who need treatment for substance abuse and addiction. To learn more about how you can support behavioral health services at Riverview Medical Center, go here or contact Jennifer Smith, senior executive director, at (732)751-5115 or JenniferL.Smith@hackensackmeridian.org.

The Tigger House Foundation is hosting their second annual fundraising event, A Night Under the Stars, on October 1 at the Edgewater Beach & Cabana Club in Sea Bright. Funds raised during the event will be dedicated to Tigger House Foundation, and will be used to combat the opiate epidemic and help recovering addicts receive rehabilitation, as demonstrated through the Foundation’s impactful gift to Riverview. For more information, visit tiggerhouse.org.



MIDDLETOWN As Christian Peter spoke about the mission, his message was delivered with all the intensity of a nose tackle playing for the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, and all the knowledge only a recovering addict could possess.

The passion in Rick and Lisa Stavola’s words, as they sat nearby, traced back to a journey that ended tragically two years ago when their son, Rick Jr., died of a heroin overdose at age 25.

Together, they help form what could be a formidable team.

On Friday night, the Tigger House Foundation — Rick Jr.’s nickname was Tigger — will hold its first major fundraiser at Edgewood Beach & Cabana Club in Sea Bright.

For Rick Stavola, vice president of the Tinton Falls-based Stavola Cos., this all started out of necessity.

"My son was in the drug court program, and part of drug court is that he had to live in a sober living facility, and there wasn‘t any beds available," he said. "So while my son was still alive, I said I would build one."

Tigger House, a 12-bed facility in Middletown, opened two months after his son’s death.

Now it’s about raising awareness about opiate addiction, including pain

"It doesn’t discriminate," said Peter, who grew up in Middletown and played six seasons in the NFL, including four with the Giants. "With my upbringing, why me? I had everything I wanted. The best schools, a loving, caring family. The exact same thing Tigger had, and we’re not the only ones. I think a big part is the education and letting them know there is a place to go. These aren’t bad people trying to get good. These are sick people trying to get well. We want to provide an opportunity for them to get well."

Peter first met Tigger while working out in a local gym, not knowing the battle he was waging. He eventually became his sponsor, recalling his first sit-down with the family at their kitchen table, where he talked well into the night about his personal demons and how alcohol and pain

It all seemed to relate. And while Peter — sober for eight years after relapsing when his playing days ended in 2002 — didn’t have personal experience with heroin, he dealt with his younger brother, Jason, a former first-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers who became a heroin addict after getting hooked on painkillers in the NFL.

"I remember Jason’s first words he ever told me about it," Peter said. "He said he thought he had kissed Jesus Christ. That was the feeling. And I know what it did to Jason; I know how it affected the family and everyone around him. That he’s still alive is a miracle. There were numerous times my brother Damian and I went looking for him, kicking the door open to his apartment and finding him passed out.

"I know what Lisa went through, the sleepless nights, because I saw my mother experience it. And the same feelings my father had is what Rick went through."

Lisa Stavola knows firsthand what it’s like to have nowhere to turn, because that’s how she felt for seven years with her son. The calls to police to have him arrested because jail was a better option. The trips to emergency rooms ill-equipped to deal with the problem. The inner workings of a legal system that shut her and her husband out because their son was an adult, even though he was in distress.

"Your child goes to detox, then he goes to rehab, then he runs away from rehab and you’re bringing him home," Lisa Stavola said. "What are you doing with him? You’re home and you’re keeping your fingers crossed, and you’re screaming and yelling and you’re pulling your hair out, and your kid is banging his head against the wall. You go to a therapist, and they tell you to go to three AA meetings a day. You’re going to tell a 17-year-old to do that?"

"That’s not going to happen." Peter interjected.

"That’s for the child who has already bought in and knows there’s going to be work," Lisa Stavola continued. "But that doesn’t happen in 30 days, which is about all most insurances will pay for, if you’re lucky enough to have insurance."

The hope is that the foundation can help fill in some of the gaps in the system in dealing with opiate addiction.

Led by program director Maurice Buki, who has experience in both law enforcement and as a drug and alcohol counselor, the foundation is equipped to do assessments, determine needs and find solutions in a short period of time — before it’s too late.

"That’s what Tigger House is all about: the public awareness and being able to supplement the recovery through donations," Rick Stavola said.

It’s also about breaking the silence.

Rick Stavola lost his older brother, Frank, to a heroin overdose 19 years ago.

"When someone said, 'Oh, your brother passed away,' it was, 'he had a heart attack.' ” Stovla said. "God forbid I said he passed away from drugs."

"I was pretty open with my situation with my son from the start, because I lived through Rick losing his brother," Lisa Stavola said. "Back then everything was very hush-hush, the old Italian family. But hey, it’s okay to talk about it or ask somebody. Like the people who are calling us now, because there’s nowhere to call. I know, because I had nowhere to call."

It’s already paying dividends.

"The other night I got a phone call from a friend of a friend whose daughter was strung out on Xanax, Oxycodone and Ambien in Florida," Rick Stavola said. "Most times parents have no idea what to do. The hospitals aren’t prepared to cope with that. Maurice was able to speak with her, got her calmed down, and we got her parents to put her on a flight. She’s getting picked up (Wednesday), and we got her a bed in a detox facility."

Anyone interested in donating or assisting, or is in need of immediate help, can go to their website at www.tiggerhouse.org.

"If we can help one kid, save one family, we did our job," Peter said. "An hopefully we’ll help a lot of families."



October 23, 2015

By Muriel J. Smith

“I want to help other people, just like so many others helped me.”

That’s Christian Peter’s mantra in life.

It’s also the reason why Peter was the honoree at Infinity, the first fundraising event for the Tigger House Foundation, founded by Lisa and Richard Stavola after the death of their oldest son, Richard Jr., known as Tigger, from a heroin overdose.

The event, held on the beach at Edgewater Beach and Cabana Club on Oct. 9, marked the second anniversary of Tigger’s passing. It was an overwhelmingly successful event for the charity that works with law enforcement, medical, legal, and mental health professionals to help those who struggle with addiction.

Peter, 43, told his own unique story at the event, raising the hopes of both young people and their families in assuring them, “there’s always help there for you. There are people who want to help you.”

He was brutally honest when sharing his story. Courageous, emotional, and inspiring, Peter bared all and expressed his dedication in helping others learn about addictions.

Located in Middletown, the 12-bed house provides assistance for those suffering from heroin addiction and plays a key role in the Stavolas’ mission to have a positive impact by reducing the death rate of heroin and opiate addition, which, they believe, is “an epidemic in our community.”

Peter, the former leader of the Blackshirt Defense at the University of Nebraska, former New York Giant before he retired in 2007, is a positive thinker. He’s also a determined individual who was taught during his developmental years that if you really want to do something, do it all the way. That’s what got him a scholarship to the University of Nebraska after playing only one year of football at Middletown High School South. That’s what helped the Eagles gain the state title in 1990 with their undefeated record. That’s what got him into Nebraska’s Football Hall of Fame in 2006. That’s what got other professional football teams – the Patriots, Colts, and Bears – to want him on their side.

But that’s also what got him into alcohol addiction and trouble with the law.

In order to straighten himself out, he had to look closely at what he didn’t like about himself. He had to put ego aside and change certain aspects of his personality, of his lifestyle. He did it. But a few years after righting himself, when he thought he didn’t need any more help or medication or counseling, he slid back into some bad habits.

Fortunately, he managed to retain the Peter concept of “doing it all the way” and made a commitment. He would better himself. He would get clean. He would focus. He would become the loving husband, caring father, and successful businessman he is today.

Peter says what helps him the most in his everyday battle to fight alcohol addiction, is helping others. “I love supporting others. Helping someone solve their problems isn’t just a help to the individual, it’s a help to me. I become less selfish, less self-centered.”

Peter is far from selfish. He doesn’t mind telling his story about the bad times he’s been through; he laments openly and sincerely about the pain he caused his parents, his brothers, his sister, his extended family. He does it all because he sees it as a way of aiding others. And that’s what Christian Peter is all about.

Nor was Christian the only son who conquered his addiction. His younger brother, Jason, was a heroin addict and Peter reached out to help him as well. Their sister, Ashley, the youngest of the four Peters, reiterated this week how very proud she is of her oldest brother, “Christian will do everything and anything to ensure his past mistakes are not repeated. He’s built a connection to a younger generation of addicts and I have to think they respond to him because of his candor. He’s an open book and incredibly selfless. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Brother Damian is married, has two children and lives in Fair Haven, and the entire family is close-knit and loving. Peter added he talks to his mom frequently, sees his parents as often as possible.

Looking back, Peter can see now, both from his own experience and from professional and expert studies on the problems, behind so many drug or alcohol addictions there are underlying mental issues. “It all stems from something mental,” he explains with intensity. “Addicts have fears, are depressed, they don’t feel good in their own skin. Some have ADD, or are dyslexic. There’s always something mental behind it. They look to self-medicate; they think they can feel better, can like themselves more; they’re going for some kind of relief.”

For himself, Peter said he masked his own dislike of himself by playing football. It made him feel good. It made him forget he had to read the same book 10 times before he could understand what he had read. It made him forget the insecurities he felt.

But football wasn’t enough. Peter liked to party and learned that alcohol helped mask those same feelings that football did. And partying and drinking made him feel secure. So, in true fashion, he was doing it “all the way.”

It wasn’t until he started to realize that there were more bad things with his new habits than good, that Peter started to straighten out. He credits the New York Giants with giving him a major boost up. They got him into Alcoholics Anonymous, they got him counseling and they got him the treatment he needed. But when it all worked, and Peter was doing and feeling just fine, he thought he could go it alone. Hence the relapse.

Today, he knows better. He knows he has demons to fight every day. And he can fight these demons best by helping others. He had tried to help Tigger.

Tigger was 12 years younger than Peter when Lisa Stavola called on the former football player for help for her son after she learned of his addiction. “Tigger was wonderful,” Peter recalls, a tinge of sadness in his voice, “he spoke from the heart. He was honest, he was decent. Like so many others, he was just trying to help himself, trying to self-medicate. It’s important to remember this: Tigger was not a bad kid trying to get good. He was a sick kid trying to get well.”

Similar to how he had tried to help Lisa and Rick in dealing with their son’s illness, he’s continuing to help now, with the Tigger House Foundation. Service to others is a big part of Peter’s life. And an even bigger part of his continuing good health. “I constantly look back at my worst times and hope someone else isn’t having a similar experience. My moments of rock bottom urge me to reach out and help people. When I do, when I make a difference, my past becomes OK.”

That’s how Christian Peter lives every day.



October 9, 2015

To Our Readers,

Once again in the pages of The Two River Times, you will find so many examples of organizations doing good for one another to improve the quality of life in The Two River area. The one that struck me this week is Lisa and Rick Stavola’s Tigger Foundation, named after their beloved eldest son, Richard J. Stavola Jr., known as Tigger to his family and friends. Tigger was caught up in a horrifying epidemic so many wish to deny exists in this upscale and wonderful community – heroin addiction. Two years ago, Tigger succumbed to his addiction and died of a heroin overdose at the age of 25, just two months before his parents completed a much needed additional Oxford House, a network of more than 2,200 sober living houses, with 19 houses in Monmouth County alone. It was mandatory Tigger get in one but there were no available beds so the Stavolas decided to build one. Tragically, Tigger died just before the 12-bed facility could open and has continued to be at full capacity since.

We are in denial in this state, and country, and do not provide the necessary help for an epidemic that is quite literally killing our children. In Monmouth County alone in 2014, 68 people died of heroin deaths and those numbers are increasing this year. Of that number, a sobering total of 20 kids died from opiates in the Middletown, Rumson, Fair Haven, and Little Silver area alone.

No, this is not just an inner city problem. The trend seems to be kids get addicted to opiates and when supplies run dry, the illegal market rate is $30 a pill. Heroin, however, costs between $5 and $10 a dose and it’s easier to obtain. And there simply are not enough treatment facilities available. This isn’t a new problem, but it is a growing one. I shared the loss of a brilliant, funny, loving and dear friend to this deadly disease despite kicking the habit for years. When I first discovered anything amiss, I was driving in his girlfriend’s old VW Bug, the ones with the side panels that clearly showed the contents, and I noticed something glass. I picked up what I found, ordered the driver to stop, stomped the “works” and put them back in the side panel. I told her to tell him exactly what I thought of his new experiment. Long story short, he stopped, for years, married a wonderful woman, had a beautiful 6-month-old son and was putting the roof on a stunning condo for his new family. He must have met up with some old “friends” that night after work, who had a dreadful influence on his behavior and then they simply dumped him in the car. His wife was in Martha’s Vineyard visiting her mother and I had to make the call that her husband was found tossed in the backseat of a Green Volvo I gave him in exchange for building us a cabana. We were all in our 20s. Then I had to go to his parents’ home and break the news that they had lost the love of their lives. Imagine what it’s like to look in a mother’s eyes and say those words. And what had she lost her son to? An insidious powder that after years of being clean and building a good life it returns suddenly and snuffs out his life in seconds. He was a decent and good man from a fine and respectable family. His life should not have ended the way it did. His wife remarried and his son flourished and they are truly happy. But the suffering that began with the delivery of that deadly phone call and horrific personal appearance never truly faded. God bless the Stavolas. It’s counter-productive to judge and deny. We need to come together to build awareness that this addiction is a sickness and it needs treatment. It takes our very best from our arms.

Jody Calendar

Executive Editor/Co-Publisher



By Marion Lynch October 8, 2015

Lisa and Rick Stavola sat in the comfortable den of their riverfront home in Middletown last Saturday morning. Over the fireplace is a portrait of the eldest son, Richard J. Stavola Jr., known as Tigger to his family and friends. He looks like a typical young man in a blue-checkered button-down shirt, head tilted slightly down, looking into the camera with the faint touch of a smile.Two years ago this month, Tigger lost his seven-year battle with addiction and died of a heroin overdose at age 25.

A tragedy for the people who loved him, Tigger’s was one of 557 heroin deaths – more than 10 each week – in New Jersey that year. In 2014 the numbers were worse, with the state medical examiner reporting 664 heroin deaths statewide, 68 in Monmouth County alone, a staggering 51 percent increase in the county. And there’s every indication that those numbers are continuing to climb in 2015.“It’s an epidemic hiding in plain sight,” said Rick. “If someone went into a school and killed 15 people, it would be all over the news all over the world, but yet, just in the Middletown, Rumson, Fair Haven, Little Silver area, 20 kids died from opiates in 2014.”

Even with so many people dying from opiate addiction, “It’s hard to believe because you don’t see it.”

The couple sees it when they open a newspaper and read the obituary of a young person who “died peacefully at home.” They know the stories, the years of cycling through addiction and arrests to detox and rehabilitation back to addiction, because they lived through it and fought it for seven years of their son’s short life.


Lisa described Tigger as a “big-hearted human being” who loved animals and people.

“He was always standing up for the little guy,” she recalled. “He had compassion for everyone, but not for himself.”

He struggled in school, first at Rumson Country Day and later in Marlboro, where he eventually was transferred to an alternative school run by the Freehold Regional school district for teens who have difficulty in school.

Those problems in school led to struggles with his self-esteem, his parents believe.

“He didn’t feel good about himself,” Lisa said.

Outside of school, he loved the outdoors; whether it was the woods near their Marlboro home or the woods of Vermont, where the families often spent their time off.

“He was a larger than life kind of kid,” Lisa says. “But drugs made him a different person.”

Low self-esteem is a familiar theme that she’s heard from mothers of other addicts, she said.

“When they take these drugs they feel good about themselves. They don’t feel shy. They don’t feel intimidated.”


Lisa and Rick say their son began using drugs when he was 17, and like most heroin addicts he started with prescription drugs. Rick described the assorted opioids that are readily available to young people.

“They all tend to start with pills: Oxycodone, Roxycodone, Percocets,” he said, and others, all highly addictive drugs that kids get a hold of through their own doctors or by taking them from family members and friends.

“It only takes a couple to get addicted.”

It’s an all-too-familiar story: When access to the pills they need runs out, heroin becomes a cheap and available alternative. With prescription pills costing around $30 on the illegal market, heroin costs between $5 and $10 a dose, and it’s easier to get.

When it became obvious that Tigger had a problem, Lisa said, “We didn’t have anyone to guide us.”

“You can’t help and you don’t know how to help,” she said.

They took their son to doctors and psychiatrists trying to find answers and get help.

When addiction tightened its grip on Tigger, they became more desperate to save their son’s life. They sent him to rehab facilities all over the country, from well-known programs frequented by troubled Hollywood stars and wilderness programs – any place that gave the family a glimmer of hope that they could help.

They begged a local hospital to admit him to the psychiatric ward. They asked a judge to have his rights taken away so that they could transport him to a rehabilitation facility.

They took him out of the country for experimental treatments that aren’t available in the U.S.

The only way to get Tigger the help he needed was to call the police.

“There is no system in place,” Rick said. “The only way you can get help in New Jersey and particularly in our area is to be arrested. You have to be arrested – and go through drug court – before you’re eligible for any kind of help.”

With few or no detox facilities for addicts, the small number of spaces available are for those who are mandated by the courts, he said.

In detox, addicts are admitted for a few days so they can withdraw from the drug in a supervised setting. Detox is supposed to be followed by rehabilitation.

The court mandated that Tigger enter a sober living facility, but there were no spaces available for him.

“We couldn’t find an Oxford House,” said Rick. Oxford House is a network of more than 2,200 sober living houses, with 19 houses in Monmouth County. Each house is self-governed and holds approximately 10 people.

“It was mandatory, and he couldn’t get in,” Rick said. “So we opened one in Middletown.”

He started to rebuild a property he owned in Middletown for use as an Oxford House for Tigger and others in need of a place to recover.

“Unfortunately, my son passed away before it opened.” In early October that year,

the family had sensed that Tigger was doing better. He was working. He had a

girlfriend.“We thought he had turned a corner,” Rick said.Lisa felt a “kind of a lull”

from the usual tension in their family life. He was living at home, on Thursday night, Oct. 10, and after he watched a football game on television he told his parents he was going to bed. That was the last time they saw their son alive.

Sometime that night Tigger received a phone call from a 50 year-old man he met in a recovery program in Middletown. They went to a bar in Paterson, and later that night Tigger was dead from a heroin overdose.

Oxford House in Middletown opened two months later, and the 12-bed facility has been at full occupancy ever since.


In the two years since Tigger’s death, the Stavolas have turned their family’s tragedy into a mission to save the lives of other people’s children.

They established the Tigger House Foundation to increase public awareness about opiate addiction and to help others struggling with addiction. Additionally, the organization has established relationships with law enforcement and hospitals to strengthen the services for those who need help.

This Friday, Oct. 9, Tigger House will hold its first fundraising event at Edgewater Beach and Cabana Club in Sea Bright. The sold-out clambake will raise funds to help addicts in need of treatment and to launch a public awareness program.

The Stavolas know the statistics all too well, and they want everyone else to know that heroin is a deadly epidemic. They know that New Jersey lies at the epicenter of the nation’s heroin crisis, with a death rate that’s triple that national average.

“This is where a lot of heroin comes in,” Rick said. “More heroin is transported up and down the New Jersey Turnpike than any other highway in the world.”

Cities like Paterson and Newark are at the heart of a multibillion-dollar industry run by organized gangs, he said. And heroin in the Garden State is the most powerful in the country – 60 percent pure compared to about 20 percent pure in other areas of the U.S.

Through Tigger House, the couple wants to spread the word about the crisis of opiate addiction and to help families through the recovery process. Through its website and social media the organization disseminates information about opiates and resources for those looking for help.

As part of his goal to increase awareness, Rick would like to see electronic billboards on area roads and highways illustrating the growing death toll from opiates.

It takes an average of two years to beat the addiction, they said, and addicts usually have to cycle through detox and rehabilitation multiple times before they are successful. Tigger House is working with a number of community-based recovery organizations so there is a solid network of available resources when people need help.

The Stavolas are not without hope. They know that their efforts will help others who suffer like Tigger did.

“It’s a curable disease,” he said. “We need to work harder to have a better system.”

“If we can prevent some families from going through what we went through it will be a success,” Rick said. “We’re hoping to save some lives.”

Tigger House  – 732-707-0017 – for those who need help. For more information visit the website, tiggerhouse.org or on the Tigger House Foundation Facebook page.



Friday, September 25, 2015

SEA BRIGHT — (September 25, 2015) - Tigger House Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, has announced their inaugural launch event, INFINITY, to be held on Friday, Oct. 9 at 6 p.m. Guests will attend a clambake and bonfire at Edgewater Beach & Cabana Club in Sea Bright and former NFL Giant and honoree, Christian Peter, will present guest speakers and celebrity appearances throughout the evening.

The Red Vespa’s sultry performance will romance guests during cocktail hour and dinner, then Rhythm & Vine will heat up the rest of the night with dancing. Falco Catering, a local favorite, will provide an exquisite seafood feast. Attire is stylish beach chic.

In 2013, Lisa and Rick Stavola Sr. founded Tigger House Foundation after they tragically lost their son to a heroin overdose. Rick Jr., a.k.a. “Tigger” was only 25 years old.

Devastated and heartbroken, the Stavolas grew determined to fight the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2002 through 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled. Rates remained highest among males, 18-25 years old.

“Heroin use is increasing at an alarming rate in many parts of society, driven by both the prescription opioid epidemic and cheaper, more available heroin,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “To reverse this trend we need an all-of-society response — to improve opioid prescribing practices to prevent addiction, expand access to effective treatment for those who are addicted, increase use of naloxone to reverse overdoses and work with law enforcement partners like DEA to reduce the supply of heroin.”

Tigger House Foundation is dedicated to making an impact on its community by reducing the death rate that is a result of heroin and opiate addiction and use. It opened a 12-bed sober living house in Middletown in 2013 and will continue to help establish housing throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties.

Tigger House Foundation is partnered with government, law enforcement, legal and medical professionals to provide opportunities for rehabilitation and to halt the spread of illicit drugs through local dealers and prescription drug abuse. Tigger House will work to change public attitudes toward addicts and addiction by addressing the illicit heroin and opiate epidemic. Tigger House will implement a strategic campaign to spread its mission to reach all New Jersey communities impacted by heroin and prescription opioid use.

Tickets to INFINITY are $250. There will be luxury auction items such as a vacation home rental in Mexico, a private jet trip to Las Vegas, luxury handbags, golf packages and more. Corporate and individual sponsorship, donations and ticket information to INFINITY can be found at www.tiggerhouse.org/events. Please join our mission to honor the lives that are lost and to prevent further fatalities in our community.



August 2015

By: Jessica Jones-Gorman

After seeking help for their 25-year-old son who was battling addiction, one Monmouth County family quickly realized that there were few, overcrowded options in the state of New Jersey. So they took it upon themselves to build a sober living facility that would serve as a respite for addicts and a safe space for them to heal. But two months before the project was completed, their beloved “Tigger” succumbed to his dependence and died of a heroin overdose.

Devastated by the loss of their son, but knowing that there were still scores of others like him who needed help, the family pushed forward. And in 2013, Tigger House Foundation was launched. “Within the last four years, there has been a reported 240 percent increase in heroin use in just Monmouth and Ocean County alone,” noted Maurice Buki, program director and outreach coordinator for the Tigger House Foundation, which is located in Middletown and strives to combat substance abuse by preventing further deaths and devastation. “Three people die every day in New Jersey of a heroin or opiate overdose. So overdoses have now eclipsed homicides, suicides, car accidents and AIDS as the leading cause of death in this state. We're at an epidemic level right now and there needs to be better public awareness of what’s going on.”

Tigger House is a 12-bed sober living facility operated by Oxford House, a self-help sobriety group that operates more than 2,000 locations throughout the United States. The site, which has been full since its opening, is not a rehab facility, nor does it advocate any particular rehabilitation methods. What the organization does do is work with community resources, including law enforcement and hospitals, offering help and advice to local families struggling with addiction, often times providing scholarships or financial aid to those in need.

“When a family comes to us the first thing we do is direct them to a healthcare facility where they can get information and hopefully get their loved one into detox,” Buki said. “We’re not an emergency hotline and we don’t rush out and grab the addict – they have to enter a detox facility on their own. But we can help those recovering get placed in a sober living facility, which is often a difficult task. In New Jersey, it can be very difficult to find treatment and that’s where we come in to make a positive impact.”

The Foundation, which is still in its infancy, is working to raise funds to build more detox facilities in the state. They also work closely with government, law enforcement, legal and medical professionals to provide opportunities for rehabilitation. Tigger House's website, www.tiggerhouse.org, which includes heartfelt stories of addiction and loss, is aimed at keeping the public aware of the very human side of this problem.

“Public awareness is a huge part of what can fix this,” Buki said. “So it’s important for us to tell as many of those very human stories as we possibly can. We participate in as much community outreach as we can and spread the word about what we’re doing on social media because 50 percent of addicts are between the ages 18 and 25 - an age group who uses Instragram and Facebook for mostly all of their interaction.”

Tigger House also receives a lot of support from families who have been through addiction issues as well as those who are currently under the grips of this epidemic.

“They are enthusiastic about what we’re doing because they see some sort of hope here,” Buki said. “There are a lot of parents out there who are in denial, those who say ‘not my child,’ and don’t actually believe there is a problem until it is too late. But what we want everyone to understand is that addiction doesn’t discriminate. This is not just in inner cities, this is a problem that is afflicting the middle class in affluent communities and rural suburbs. It’s not just limited to a particular demographic — it’s taking out people from all walks of life.”

That’s why Buki says it’s important for family members to be aware of the tell-tale indicators of drug use and abuse.

“There will be changes in demeanor,” he said. “There will be a desire to withdraw from family and friends – those who know them best because those are the people who will pick up on those subtle changes. Slowly, the addict will change crowds, possibly lose a job, always be tired — indicators that are not always that easy to detect. And there will also be the nodding, the foot shaking and the scratching that go hand-in-hand with opiate addiction.” And Buki said many addicts will start avoiding family functions and other public events where friends and parents might notice their altered behavior.

“It’s so important when we talk about awareness to disseminate to parents that this is something that could happen to anyone,” Buki said. “So many parents believe they’ve raised their kids correctly, sent them to all of the right schools and monitored their behavior but it’s a growing problem that is affecting us all.”

In addition to having recovered addicts speak to family groups within the community, Tigger House also intends to post billboards about the problem and put together a round table focus group with medical professionals and members from law enforcement who will discuss how they can come together as a team to prevent the spread of this problem.

A Clam Bake is scheduled for October 9 in Sea Bright to raise funds for the organization and other future events include a Spring golf outing and a women's luncheon as well as a possible bike ride and fishing tour.

“This is about the community coming together for this common cause,” Buki concluded. “Together we can make a difference in preventing more senseless deaths.”