The New Jersey Department of Human Services has awarded a total of $500,000 in grant money to Rutgers University and The College of New Jersey to help fight drug and alcohol abuse by students.

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"Alcohol and substance on campus has been a huge problem for years that really needs to be addressed, and  there's a focus right now on wellness and recovery and alternatives to that, so we're sort of waging a war against a really pervasive enemy," said Jennifer Velez, the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services during a news conference on the TCNJ campus.

Velez said the grant money will be used to help students steer clear of drugs and alcohol, and will also be used to treat those already in recovery.

"These schools are already doing a lot to fight student alcohol and substance abuse," the commissioner said. "But whenever we have the opportunity to supplement their efforts with financial support, I think that's hugely helpful for them.

Velez also stressed the grants are extremely important because "if we could measure prevention financially, it's worth millions, it's worth its weight in gold."

When asked whether this kind of effort will be expanded in the future to other New Jersey colleges and universities, she said the possibility is there.

"Lets see how it works here - I think that expanding this would be wonderful if there were grant monies available, it sounds like they're going to use this money in a really smart way and it may become a model for others."

TCNJ Clinic Director Nancy Scott said the $250,000 her school is receiving will be used to fund a support program for students struggling with substance use and abuse, and also to expand campus programs that offer students after-hours alcohol and drug-free activities.

"Whether it's late night volleyball, or late-night movies or whatever, there are activities that they would choose and think of that we may not even know about, so we're really excited about doing that, so that students can choose healthier lifestyles," Scott said.

Scott also stressed the importance of having these kinds of options available to students when they're first entering college.

"That can make a huge difference, because that's when they're forming relationships with other students, that becomes their friend group - if we can help them make better choices, that's a big step towards prevention," Scott said.