Grieving Father Supports Unique New Jersey Addiction Program


After Losing Son to Addiction, Father Supports CLEAR Program

Like so many other young men, Robert Hontz’s battle with addiction started after a sports injury. In the fall of his junior year, he broke his wrist playing football and was prescribed opiates for the pain. From there, things gradually spiraled from bad to worse.

As reported in the New Jersey Herald, his father John is still coming to grips with the loss.

“My son was an addict, and he struggled with mental illness,” Hontz said, “but he was treated like a criminal.”

Several years of arrests and incarcerations only worsened Robert’s mental health, and, in turn, his addiction.

In 2014, Robert spent eight months in a work program with the Salvation Army, and from that point spent time in multiple rehabs with mixed results. In December of 2016, he was treated at a psychiatric hospital, and, through the hospital, got an apartment in Belvidere.

“He was being tested for drugs regularly during that time,” Hontz explains, describing an uptick in Robert’s health. “He was gaining weight, and he was happy to be clean. But addiction — it’s not a straight line. He’d get better, then he’d get worse. He’d get away from it, then something would pull him back.”

Sadly, his son’s battle with addiction ended abruptly one night this summer. Every time he called Robert, there was no answer. “Tears were rolling down my face as I was driving; I just knew,” Hontz recalls. Seeing the police gathered near Robert’s apartment, Hontz’s fear and parental intuition hardened to certainty. The police confirmed Robert’s death but would not allow Hontz to see his son’s body.

“When you die alone like that,” Hontz said, “it’s a crime scene.”

Now Hontz channels his energy by volunteering with CLEAR, a Sussex County program designed to provide integrated help to addicts and their families. Hontz believes that CLEAR may be the only way to save others from Robert’s fate. Hontz is ready to fight for CLEAR, and he is not the only one entering this fight.

Steven Freaney and Tim Deaver, owners of TJ’s Pizzeria Cafes in Franklin and Sussex, have set up a GoFundMe to provide Robert J. Hontz with a cemetery plot and headstone and to benefit the Sussex County CLEAR Program.

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