Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Proposed Ohio Narcan Law Shows Stigma Lives On

Every once in a while something happens to remind me how far we have to go in pursuing the mission that Marty Mann established over 70 years ago when she started the National Council on Alcoholism. That organization, which is now the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), started with the mission to educate the public that alcoholism is a disease, the alcoholic can be treated, and that addiction is a public health issue. One of the primary purposes of NCADD was to reduce the stigma associated with addictive illness.

I just read an article that the town of Middleton Ohio is considering a proposal to limit individuals overdosing from heroin to only two responses by the EMS services to provide Narcan and thus be revived him from an opiate overdose. The city Council states that this is a measure to deal with the financial cost of providing Narcan, which has increased drastically over the last several years due to the opiate epidemic.

Can you imagine what the response would be if a city stated it was going to limit the number of EMS responses  for  an individual with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease who needed to be brought to the emergency room for acute exacerbation, which can be as high as 3.5 per year per individual? I would imagine there would be universal outrage and such a regulation would be considered unthinkable.

And yet, we must ask the question, why is a regulation that would clearly result in the death of a human being considered acceptable? The answer of course, is the stigma that is still alive and well with regard to addictive illness. The belief continues that it is a moral and not a medical issue. That the individual has acted with complete volition and if she or he chose to, they could simply stop. This despite all of the research and evidence on the functions of the brain which clearly show that addictive illness is a result of brain chemistry and functioning.
So, the work of Marty Mann's mission is as vital today as it was 70 years ago. This is the work of the individuals who have volunteered as NCADD-NJ Advocacy Partners and Leaders.  They have generously donated their time and energy to carry NCADD's message to the public and policymakers in order to reduce the stigma here in New Jersey.

We need to continue to work together to establish an environment where it would be unthinkable for any town in the state of New Jersey to remotely consider such an ordinance as that in Middleton Ohio. We have already had an impact on policy and New Jersey, but we need to remain active and vigilant so that attitudes and beliefs don't slide back to the old stigmatizing and blaming viewpoints. 

We have put a face and voice on recovery in New Jersey and we at NCADD-NJ are incredibly grateful to those who have stepped forward and accomplished this. Hopefully together we can continue to move the tide of public opinion towards compassion, understanding, and help towards individuals and families affected by addictive illness.

Wayne E. Wirta 
President/ CEO 

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 facingaddiction.org