You may not have heard the name Riley Regan, but you should: the authority figure on drug and alcohol abuse, provider of hope to many and founding director of the New Jersey Division of Alcoholism, died of liver cancer this past Friday at the age of 77. While many today advocate for treatment over incarceration, Regan was a pioneer. He unabashedly fought for recovery through rehabilitation and treatment throughout the 80s – a time when stigma, and the War on Drugs, reigned.
Regan was a passionate and committed recovering drug addict and alcoholic who is credited with the implementation of the Alcoholism Treatment and Rehabilitation Act. The Act decriminalized public drunkenness and established a statewide (New Jersey) system for alcoholism treatment and prevention. His efforts also led to the development of court-sponsored diversion systems.
More of Riley’s amazing accolades:
- Instrumental in developing legislation that established the nationally recognized Intoxicated Driver Resource Center to help reduce drunk driving in NJ.
- Served as Executive Director of the New Jersey Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
- For more than 20 years he taught at numerous colleges and universities throughout the country on alcoholism and drug abuse.
- Honored five times by resolutions from the New Jersey General Assembly for his ongoing work in the filed of addiction.
- Helped develop the New Jersey Council on Compulsive Gambling.
- Came out of retirement in ’02 to become the Director of the New Hampshire Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Recovery.
Tom Graham, Regan’s best friend and former deputy director of the division, says, “He had the ability to reach into people and get them to connect to what he came to New Jersey for — to set up systems so wherever someone was addicted or an alcoholic presented themselves there was a hand to reach out to them.”
Regan is survived by his wife and stepchildren.