The Tigger House Foundation, Working Toward Addiction Recovery, One Individual at a Time

October 2019

By Dr. Stephanie Reynolds, MD Tigger House Foundation, Chair to Physician’s Council. Dr. Reynolds currently works at Riverview Medical Center an ER physician. She is the former Chair of the Riverview Medical Center ER.

The Tigger House Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to achieving a positive impact by reducing the death rate of overdoses caused by heroin and opiate addiction. Working to create a visible presence in our community, the Tigger House was founded in 2013 after the Stavola Family lost their son Ricky “Tigger” Stavola to a heroin overdose at age 25. Since its inception, they have been working to eliminate the negative stigma associated with the disease of addiction and addiction recovery.

Tigger House Foundation is taking a stand against the opioid and heroin epidemic and is striving to defeat this illness that is destroying lives in Monmouth County and throughout New Jersey. The mission of our foundation is based on four cornerstone values: treatment, education, outreach, and hope. The Stavolas’ commitment and dedication to addiction recovery is also evident by the launch of their program TARP (Tigger Addiction Recovery Program) started in 2017 in partnership with Monmouth Medical Center. The program aims to prevent another family from having to endure the pain and helplessness, as they did, of a family in crisis. A proven life-saving resource for addicts, the program assists those who are seeking treatment and working to combat the ugly disease of addiction. Following a first-year success rate of 96%, the State of New Jersey took over the program and expanded it to 11 other recovery-support facilities in hospitals statewide. The TARP program is designed to begin in the emergency room, where time is crucial, with a patient navigator consulting with the addicted; and then working with the patient to connect them with a recovery program best suited to their individual needs.

The Stavola family is very active in the community and has decided to honor their son by becoming directly involved in the fight against the drug epidemic attacking our youth. Subsequently, this year The Tigger House Foundation formed a student alliance program within five local high schools.

The mission of The Student Alliance program is to involve age appropriate peers to educate students about the disease of addiction and the consequences that addiction can have. The difficult discussions about the long term effects on one’s physical and mental health, family, relationships, and other areas of functioning are much better received when they come from a friend, classmate or teammate. The student peers also teach others how and why substances are abused and how to avoid this disease. The program has been implemented in five area high schools including Red Bank Catholic, Christian Brothers Academy, Middletown South, Trinity Hall, and Rumson Fair Haven. A law enforcement leader, Chief William Lucia, provides guidance to the student peers to educate and train them and their parents on the opioid and heroin epidemic. The goal is to expand this program throughout high schools across the state of New Jersey.

In 2017 we saw over 70,000 overdose deaths in the United States, and this was an improvement over the previous year. “Heroin-involved overdose death rates declined among many groups in 2017. The largest declines occurred among persons aged 15-24 years with a 15% drop.”(Morbidity and Mortality Weekly /January 2019/67(5152); 1419-1427) This decrease represents a great step in the right direction, but the battle is far from over. Physicians are confronted daily with patients experiencing pain management issues and need to be aware of the highly addictive nature of opioid painkillers. The community of healthcare providers needs to look for other ways to help patients manage their pain. They need to be aware of the family dynamics in each situation, and the individual patient’s risk factors associated with potential addiction. As the Chairman of the Physician Council for the Tigger House Foundation, I believe that the negative stigma surrounding the nationwide drug addiction problem needs to be removed in order for recovery statistics to improve. Only then will it be possible to provide our children with the necessary help to recover and find joy in their lives again. Through their initiatives, Tigger House is working toward that goal with addiction recovery programs, educational programs, outreach, and hope.