RUMSON: OXFORD WAS TO GO FEMALE

61 so ward rumson 101413The house at 61 South Ward Avenue has been occupied by Oxford House since August. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Officials overseeing Rumson’s Oxford House were planning to turn the four-month-old addiction recovery facility for men into one serving addicted women and their children by the end of the year, redbankgreen has learned.

What will become of that plan is unclear, however, in the aftermath of a purported second drug overdose at the house in nine weeks and the filing of a borough lawsuit that slams Oxford House as a failure on its own terms and a danger to the neighborhood.

Word of the proposed changes was sent by email last Friday to Jim Sylvester, a spokesman for West Park section neighbors who learned Oxford had set up shop in the midst of their homes only after the overdose death of a 25-year-old resident on October 13. The house had been leased in July, and opened to as many as nine men in August.

“They had decided to change the house to a residence for women with children,” Sylvester said. “We didn’t ask for the change. They decided to do it on their own.”

The change, which apparently would allow women with up to two children to live in the house with them, was to have taken place as early as this month, Sylvester said, citing the email from Oxford regional manager George Kent.

Under Oxford House’s own rules, houses with women are supervised by an on-site proctor, whereas as the homes for men typically are not – a sore point for neighbors. But at a meeting with neighbors at nearby St. George’s Church three weeks ago, Kent said a proctor would live in the house with the current roster of men.

The borough contends that the proctor, Michael LaVecchia, was not present during the latest overdose incident, which was called in as an emergency to paramedics at around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. Police also encountered a woman in the house at that time, in apparent violation of an Oxford curfew that requires guests to leave by midnight.

In the same email from Kent, the organization declined to conduct criminal background checks on prospective residents, something neighbors clamored for, Sylvester said.

Sylvester said the nieghbors were “pleased” that Oxford was “moving from an unsupervised regime to a supervised one, but we don’t know the credentials of the person” who would be overseeing the house.

Kent could not immediately be reached Wednesday afternoon for comment on the planned changes.

Sylvester said the neighbors were disturbed that their requests for background checks and “adequate drug testing” of residents were turned down.

In its lawsuit, filed Tuesday afternoon, the borough asked Superior Court Judge Patricia Del Bueno Cleary in Freehold to bar Oxford from using the property as a recovery residence and to order the house vacated immediately.

In the court filing, borough Attorney Marty Barger characterizes the medical emergency of earlier in the day as an  overdose, without the qualifier of “apparent,” though town officials said they have no definitive evidence of an overdose.

The house, the suit claims, “is a failure, drug addiction occurs there, and it is a serious danger to the residents of the area and the entire neighborhood.”

“The residents of the entire area are in danger, and the facility must be closed immediately,” the suit continues.

Oxford House has not yet responded to the suit, and Kent told redbankgreen on Wednesday that he could not comment on the events of Tuesday until he had more information.

Here’s the borough’s court filing: Rumson v. Oxford 121713