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$15M to Anti-Drug Ad Campaign: Too Much, Too Little,Just Right?

Governor Christie has made it clear that he has no intention of ignoring the rampant rates of opiate overdose deaths that have been sweeping New Jersey for years. He regularly speaks about his legislative intentions and the programs he would like to fund and/or implement with the goal of helping New Jersey families avoid opiate addiction or connect with treatment for a current addiction disorder.

One of Gov. Christie’s proposals is a widespread ad campaign designed to raise awareness of the risks associated with opiate drug use. He intends to fund the campaign with as much as $15 million to make sure that message gets out and misses no one in the state. Called “Reach NJ,” these ads were already funded by $2.6 million of the budget and feature Gov. Christie encouraging viewers to contact a New Jersey helpline designed to assist families in crisis due to addiction.

Brian Murray is a spokesman for Gov. Christie. He said: “Through a refinancing of debt service, the state has realized significant savings. The FY 2017 budget authorized the transfer of existing appropriations for the purpose of promoting awareness to increase participation in programs administered by the state, including programs to preserve or promote public health and safety. The funds will be transferred to those departmental accounts already spending money for similar purposes. Under the new contract, we are prepared to spend up to $15 million.”

Awareness and Options

Gov. Christie has gone to a great deal of effort to make sure that the issues associated with opiate drug use do not get overlooked. During his State of the State address last year, he outlined a number of different ideas to limit access to addictive drugs and increase treatment options. The ad campaign is designed to provide a one-stop phone number for families to call so they can learn more details about what is available to them in terms of treatment and support resources and how exactly to go about accessing those programs.

Beyond the State

Though government-funded services fill a critical need, there is only so much to go around even with the great influx of cash from Gov. Christie’s proposed budget. With so many people in personal crisis and/or in need of legally mandated treatment services, there is often a waiting list that is long. It is easy for people to get lost in that line, and many die in the process.

It is important for families to recognize that they have options. Private drug treatment programs will work with many insurance companies, may provide sliding scale fees for certain services, and may have availability far sooner than a government-funded program. They may also provide access to more intensive services and a wider range of options with a lower client-to-staff ratio that allows for more personalized care. Personalized treatment is the key to success in early recovery, and the more access to therapies and treatments that clients have, the more likely it is that they will be able to experience a well-rounded treatment program that directly addresses their needs.

Vital Need

It is clear that more must be done to address the opiate addiction problem in New Jersey. Across the state, the number of lives lost to heroin overdose deaths alone was twice that of the national average in 2015. This translates into millions of people who have been negatively impacted by drug use and abuse – from living with the disorder, to loving a family member who is struggling with the disease, to dealing with the higher rates of crime, increased taxes, and poor living conditions that come with living in the midst of a public health crisis.

The good news is that with the heightened attention paid to the problem, both in New Jersey and across the country, communities are working together to prevent young people from developing an addiction disorder and to empower people who are in active addiction to connect with treatment. Stigma is starting to dissipate as we connect those in need with treatment rather than prison terms for nonviolent drug-related crimes and understand that this is a medical disorder that requires medical attention and support for positive long-term results.

What changes have you seen in your community due to the increased awareness of the opiate epidemic? Have you seen Gov. Christie’s ads? Do you think they are effective in helping people know what their options are and to get help?

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Sunrise House is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More