Wednesday, April 05, 2017

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to Lead White House Opiate Task Force- Reposted

March 30, 2017
~ Aaron Kucharski, Facing Addiction’s Grassroots Coordinator
As a person in long term recovery from addiction since September 62003, and a New Jersey resident entrenched in grassroots advocacy since 2010, I have seen the progress that can be made in addressing addiction issues.  When elected officials set aside partisanship to work with family members, people in recovery and treatment professionals, they  find solutions and better the odds for those struggling with addiction.
This week, it was announced that Governor Chris Christie will lead the White House Opiate Task Force.  If this White House can face the opiate crisis as aggressively as Christie has in New Jersey, then this development could be promising.
"According to the Surgeon General, an American dies every 19 minutes from an overdose of heroin or prescription opioids." –  Gov. Christie, 2017 State of the State Address
Governor Christie has spoken openly of why addiction is so personal for him. He lost his college roommate to a drug overdose and he has told a number of stories about several people close to him being in recovery.
"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."  –  Gov. Christie, 2017 State of the State
In my opinion, addressing addiction in New Jersey for the Governor wasn’t just about helping save lives in Jersey communities, it was about setting an example for the rest of the country.  Governor Christie has a unique opportunity to bring his leadership around addiction issues to the national stage.
In two terms Chris Christie, with the help of the NJ legislature and advocates, has:
  • Signed into law the most aggressive health insurance protections for people seeking addiction services in the country, mandating insurance to cover six months of inpatient or outpatient
  • Expanded the Narcan program to law enforcement and family members and has trained hundreds of law enforcement officers and EMT’s. Just in 2016, there were over 10,000 Narcan deployments statewide, resulting in thousands of lives being saved from accidental overdose.
  • Embraced peer-to-peer recovery coaching for overdose victims in 11 New Jersey counties linking people in recovery to hospital programs that expand a continuum of care when people are at their most vulnerable
  • Aggressively increased treatment options in every New Jersey county for non-violent drug offenders and signed into law automatic expungement for drug court graduates
  • Expanded the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.
  • Signed the Opportunity to Compete Act, giving those with criminal records a fairer shot at employment in the job interview process
  • Signed the Good Samaritan Law, providing immunity for those calling 911 in the event of a drug overdose
  • Expanded recovery and prevention in education environments by signing into law a bill that mandates substance misuse instruction in the state core curriculum, a bill that helped open the state’s first recovery high school, and a bill that requires all state colleges that have 20 percent of students living on campus to have recovery housing and support
  • Has increased funding for addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery support in every New Jersey state budget.
  • Signed a bill that requires jails and prisons to supply medications to inmates for chronic illnesses including medically assisted treatment for those struggling with addiction
  • Reopened a correctional facility specifically to treat those incarcerated struggling with addiction
  • Accepted federal funds under the ACA to expand Medicaid so more people can access drug treatment services
"No more pre-approvals. No more medical necessity reviews prior to admission by an insurance company bureaucrat. No more denials that can cost lives. Treatment first, hope first, denials last." – Gov. Christie
This is just a handful of examples of the progress that has proven to work when reaching across the aisle and listening to family members and people in recovery who have lived experiences with substance use disorders and recovery.
Christie’s efforts show that in order to address addiction we need all hands on deck. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, law enforcement, educators, doctors and hospital staff, family members, and people in recovery need to face addiction together as a preventable and treatable health issue.
Aaron Kucharski also runs a statewide advocacy program in New Jersey.
Originally posted on

Thursday, March 09, 2017

NCADD-NJ’s Testimony on the Proposed Fiscal Year 2018 State Budget Delivered to the Assembly and Senate Budget Committees

From:  Edward Martone, Policy Analyst
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence - New Jersey

Over the past several years, this Legislature and Governor have taken significant, substantive initiatives to retard the on-going tragedy of addictions. Much of that effort has been reflected in the annual outlays in the state’s Budget. And yet the crisis deepens.

One has a choice of dreadful statistics to pick from. Opioid deaths in the nation have surpassed 30,000 per annum. This represents a nearly 75 percent rise since 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control. As recently as 2007, gun homicides outnumbered heroin deaths by more than 5 to 1. The latter has now eclipsed the former.

This Legislature and Governor have heroically extended the use of naloxone, enhanced the reimbursement rates for inpatient drug therapy, allowed more people to benefit from the Medicaid program, mandated recovery housing on college and university campuses, established a recovery high school structure, instituted both the needle exchange and drug court projects statewide, among other measures adopted to do battle with this scourge.

This Legislature and Governor understand well, that addressing behavioral health issues would take some of the stress from other government services. Beyond the moral imperative to assist our brothers and sisters in crisis, an investment in initiatives that lessen the destructive ramifications of addictive behavioral will permit us to spend less on law enforcement, prisons, and social services.

There remains the risk of the limited resources of the state being overwhelmed by the need. Also, the block granting, and repeals being deliberated upon in Washington, D. C. for the ACA, Medicaid and healthcare funding in general, hang ominously over the proceedings here in the Garden State. New Jersey’s government may well find itself forced to backfill cuts to worthy programs that are being jeopardized by “repeal and replace” shenanigans in our country’s capital.

The NCADD-NJ organization, along with its 1,000 Advocate Leaders, strongly support many of the proposals in the 2018 state Budget, including: the expansion ($2.8m)of the extant Recovery Coach program from its current five counties to eleven, the opening of a 696 bed facility ($2m) at the former Mid State prison to provide drug and alcohol treatment to many in our state’s correctional system, an additional $12m to house 18 and 19 year-olds struggling with addictions, an allotment of $1m to $1.5m for college recovery dorms, an allocation of $5m for the statewide enhancement of a successful pilot project that provides telehealth hubs with a psychiatrist on call for pediatricians to receive training on screening children for behavioral health and substance misuse conditions, $136m (largely from federal sources) to continue improved Medicaid reimbursement rates for behavioral health services, and $64m in new monies for Drug Courts.

Although not appearing as a line item within the extant proposal upon which you are deliberating, the Governor’s suggestion offered in his Budget Address calling for hundreds of millions of dollars drawn from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield’s $2.4b in reserves deserves careful consideration and may well be a mechanism for stepping up the state’s response to the opioid epidemic.

Finally, I’d like to call your attention to pending legislation that seeks no expenditure of state funds, but which would reinforce long-term recovery from addictions. A.3684 would direct the Department of Human Services to facilitate the establishment of four new peer-to-peer Recovery Community Centers. The state presently has two publicly-funded and two privately-funded facilities.