Student sent to detox center tells his story


The Spinnaker received an e-mail from UNF student Matthew Merolli in response to Oct. 28 issue’s article “UPD: Something must happen to intoxicated students.”

Merolli was caught drinking underage in the Osprey Crossings Jan. 15 and UPD took him to a detoxification center, he said.

“I blew a .113, yet still, I felt I had what it would take to walk five doors down to my dorm room and go to sleep for class in the morning,” Merolli said. “Instead, UPD forced three of us in the back of their cop car and sent us to the detoxification and rehabilitation center with no choice or other option presented to us.”

Merolli could walk straight and talk without slur.

Upon his arrival at River Point Behavioral Health, the nurses couldn’t tell he’d been drinking and had not a clue as to why he was there, he said.

When choosing which detoxification center to take UNF students to, River Point Behavioral Health, formerly Ten Broeck Hospital, was the best option because of its close proximity to campus, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Everett Malcolm said.

“We just felt it was in the best interest of the student to partner with a facility that provides necessary care to intoxicated students,” Malcolm said.

Eight students in the 2008-2009 academic year and nine students since then have been transported to River Point Behavioral Health, he said.

At the center, they split the three boys up and put them in their rooms, which adults with real problems such as addition to serious drugs inhabited, Merolli said.

“Instead of sleeping calmly in my dorm room, I found myself sharing a room with two mentally unstable people who could potentially do harm to a college boy like myself,” Merolli said.

But taking students to detox is the right thing to do, Malcolm said.

“What we don’t want to happen is to have to put the responsibility of handling an intoxicated student in the hands of their roommate[s],” Malcolm said.

Merolli said that as he lay in bed unable to sleep, he thought, “How bad would UPD feel if one of these men were to assault me?”

The following morning, he was required to wait six hours for a doctor to clear him to leave and as a result, missed his class and wasn’t able to turn in a paper that was due, for which he ended up getting a zero, he said.

“Finally as we left, after being forced to intermingle with addicts and attend a meeting to share our problems, we saw that we owed the school $350, without them even letting us know beforehand,” Merolli said.

Though Police Chief John Dean said he believed the clause states UPD can do this is in the housing contract, Malcolm said it is actually in the student handbook.

Housing may have a form too, he said.

Merolli conducted some research into the hospital at which he spent the night and discovered the person who owned Ten Broeck Hospital was also affiliated with UNF, he said.

However, this theory has yet to have been confirmed as fact.

“This leads me to believe that the UPD sent us to the hospital in order to get $350 from each of us,” Merolli said.

If students have insurance, many policies will cover all or a portion of their $350 stay at River Point, but a lot of students choose not to go through their insurances so their parents won’t find out, Malcolm said.

“I am not aware of any affiliation between the owner of River Point and UNF,” Malcolm said.

The Spinnaker attempted to get in contact with River Point to confirm whether a conflict of interest is being committed, but phone calls have yet to be returned.