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How NJ Is Fighting Back against Opiate Addiction

Across the northeast, states have been hit hard by opiate use and abuse. Fentanyl, heroin, and prescription painkillers have taken a significant toll on the area, and New Jersey has not been left out of the equation. According to NJ Advance Media, more than 125,000 people across the state are living with heroin addiction, and the rate of people who lost their lives to opiate overdose in New Jersey in 2015 is three times the national average and has steadily climbed every year since 2010.

The good news is that everyone in New Jersey is taking the problem seriously and being proactive in addressing the problem – local nonprofits, the medical community, the substance abuse treatment community, and the state government.

Governor Chris Christie Takes Action

At the end of last month, Governor Christie announced the addition of almost 900 beds in treatment programs dedicated to helping people manage mental illness and overcome addiction. This increase will give the current treatment offerings across the state a boost of 40 percent.

Earlier in the year, Governor Christie called addiction a “public health crisis” during his State of the State speech and promised to spend his last year in office focused heavily on creating positive changes that would help to mitigate the problem.

During that approximately 75-minute speech, Governor Christie talked about the addiction crisis for about 60 minutes. He asked for legislation to alter insurance coverage for addiction treatment, requiring that insurance providers cover the first six months of treatment for everyone who asks for it without requiring an upfront payment.

Governor Christie also said that doctors should be limited in their ability to prescribe addictive painkillers, cutting the initial supply from 30 days down to five days. He also outlined an educational website that would not only increase awareness about the nature of addiction and treatment options but also provide a conduit to treatment options in New Jersey. He said that he would be partnering with Koch Industries to increase employment opportunities for people who have been incarcerated due to drug-related charges and expressed his interest in hearing from anyone with ideas on how to positively impact the death rate caused by overdose.

In the first weeks of this year, Governor Christie has set about presenting legislation that would follow through on all the initiatives he outlined in his speech, and many are in the process of being reviewed by committees.

Said Governor Christie: “This is the face of the epidemic of addiction that is ravaging our state and its people. In fact, it is ravaging our entire country. Our friends are dying. Our neighbors are dying. Our co-workers are dying. Our children are dying. Every day. In numbers we can no longer ignore. I will not have the blood of addicted New Jerseyans on my hands by waiting to act.”

Saving Lives and Making Treatment an Option

Increased access to treatment, insurance changes, and information about treatment are all great pieces in the puzzle that we must put together to treat addiction, but none will be effective if we cannot save the lives of people who are dying due to overdose.

To that end, the use of the drug naloxone has been a lifesaver, literally, for tens of thousands of people who are struggling with opiate addiction. An opiate overdose reversal medication, the drug can be given to someone in the throes of overdose and effectively stop the effects immediately, saving the person’s life. If the overdose reversal is performed by medical professionals, they can follow up on the spot with information about detox and addiction treatment, helping the person to realize the life-threatening nature of the situation and reminding them that they may not get a second chance.

This can be the wakeup call that someone living with opiate addiction needs to make positive changes, get into treatment, and take advantage of all the changes that Governor Christie is bringing to New Jersey to help people in need get the care necessary to heal.

Trainings are taking place across the state to increase use of the drug in an effort to lower rates of opiate overdose.

How can you and your loved one who is living with addiction take advantage of the opportunities available across the state and get treatment for opiate addiction before overdose strikes?