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