Friday, February 02, 2018

TOO LATE FOR PESSIMISM

Despite the ever-deepening, hellish pit that is the present opiate crisis - and – the White House’s apparent conclusion that kneeling football players merit more scrutiny than the country’s on-going worst health tragedy in the modern era – Garden State decision makers in recent times can point with distinction to a number of largely positive improvements in addictions and recovery policies. To be sure, much more needs to be done. Yet, in the just-concluded 2016/17 Legislative Term, a Democratic Senate and Assembly along with a Republican Governor, can note with pride some of the proposals that made it into law. The following are some:

S.1266 – Establish a permanent, statewide sterile needle exchange program

A.2292 – Require a review of the Core Curriculum Content Standards to ensure that guidance for substance misuse instruction provided to public school students incorporates the most recent evidence-based standards and practices

A.3744 – Establishes law enforcement assisted addiction and recovery referral programs

S.601 – Permits certain persons with drug possession convictions to be eligible for General Assistance and Emergency Housing Assistance

S.384 – Requires correctional facilities to provide prisoners with medications for chronic illnesses that were prescribed prior to incarceration

S.3083 – Provides immunity to emergency personnel for the administration of up to three doses of an opioid antidote This proposal was in response to the frequent need to administer multiple dosages of naloxone in the event of a Fentanyl overdose.

S.1710 – Permits ambulatory care facilities to provide primary health care and behavioral health services under a single license

A.2430 – Requires that, when a health care professional or first responder administers an opioid antidote to a person experiencing a drug overdose, the individual must be provided with information concerning substance misuse treatment resources, including information on the availability of opioid antidotes.

S.2964 – Prohibits residential substance use disorder treatment facilities and aftercare facilities (including sober living homes and halfway houses) from denying admission to a person on the basis that the individual is currently receiving medication assisted treatment

S.3306 – Prohibits certain public employment discrimination based upon an expunged criminal record

S.3307 – Revises procedures for expunging criminal records, including shortening some waiting periods for expungement eligibility and increasing the number of convictions that may be expunged.

S.3308 – Decreases the waiting period to expunge an entire juvenile criminal record from five years to three

S.3604 – Mandates that practitioners check prescription monitoring information before prescribing opioids to emergency patients

A.2619 – Requires that certain prisoners with detainers ( wanted for adjudication in another jurisdiction) be provided access to in-prison drug treatment programs

A.3/S.3 – Mandates health insurance coverage for treatment of substance use disorders; and places certain restrictions on the prescribing of opioids

S.307 – Creates a Veterans’ Diversion Program to divert veterans and active duty service members, charged with non-violent offenses and experiencing behavioral health problems, away from the criminal justice system and in to appropriate treatment

S.295 – Authorizes pharmacists to dispense opioid antidotes to patients without a prescription

S.2878 - Allows health care facilities to use shared clinical space when providing primary and behavioral health care for moderate behavioral health conditions

S.291 – Authorizes health care providers to engage in telemedicine

S.1840 – Prohibits charging a fee to stop publishing personal identifying information obtained through the criminal justice system

S.2721 – Implements person-first language and changes pejorative terminology in laws and regulations referring to individuals with substance use disorders

A.1662 – Requires the development and maintenance of a data dashboard report to advise of open bed availability in residential facilities providing behavioral health services

A.3944 – Directs the NJ Dept. of Education to develop an educational fact sheet for distribution to parents of student athletes and cheerleaders concerning the use, and misuse, of prescription opioids

A.2176 – Criminalizes the possession and sale of “flocka” or “flakka”

A.1661 – Mandates the enrollment of certain prisoners in to the Medicaid program

A.1549 – Requires health care professionals with the authority to write prescriptions for opioids, to complete continuing education courses regarding issues related to prescription opioids

A.3778 – Mandates that prescriptions be transmitted electronically to a pharmacy

To review any of the above in their entirety, go to the NJLegislature’s website.
As we embark upon the 2018/19 Legislative Term and welcome a new Governor, the NCADD-NJ Advocates and staff are pledged to continue pushing for the quality reforms and resources needed to help people in attaining, and retaining, sobriety.

Ed Martone
Policy Analyst  


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

AGAINST LONG ODDS



Homo sapiens are a consistent source of disappointment. I often wonder whether humans can really be Nature’s last word. However, the antidote to this pessimism was served up in full on November 4 at the Summit for NCADD-NJ’s volunteer Advocates held at Rutgers in New Brunswick.

Primarily consisting of people living in recovery and their families, all have endured quite a lot. Into each life, as the poet says, some rain must fall. Almost all at the gathering have been on the receiving end of a torrent, but continue to fight back, and win. It was a day for honing skills, sharing information and expressions of gratitude. What I’ve always found so admirable about our Advocates, is their generosity of spirit. In addition to dealing with health issues, stigma, lack of access to appropriate care, battles with insurance companies, and financial setbacks, amazingly, they have been able to devote some of their strength to the service of others. Much of their effort won’t benefit them. Their noble hearts have directed them to reach down and help others up the ladder. One of the most moving moments of the event, was the graduation presentation by state Senator Patrick Diegnan to Advocate Amalia Papi. The Senator came off his re-election campaign three days before Election Day because, as he put it, “Amelia is forever doing for others and it is fitting that her hard work be finally recognized.” The same could be said for each of the Advocate Leaders.

The relatively recent more refined understanding of the addiction problem both among the general public and policy makers, is attributable in no small degree, to the Herculean efforts of our Advocates. They have put the human (there is that word again) touch on the dilemma. Thanks in large measure to them, the disorder that once dare not speak its name, now won’t shut up. And there have been specific, substantive public policy reforms for which they have been at least partly responsible. Some of these were delineated at the Summit, and include: dedicated enhancements of state budgets to provide treatment and recovery, invitations to appear at public forums and in the media, the Good Samaritan Law, criminal record expungement revisions, evidence-based school instruction on addiction, added recovery housing at university and college campuses, improved drug therapy programs in lock-up facilities, Ban the Box legislation, increased availability of naloxone, and a statewide implementation of needle exchange initiatives. And these only begin to detail the far-reaching improvements to public policies that the Advocates can be most proud.

Meanwhile, it is acknowledged, that the work must continue. As New Jersey sees a new Governor and Legislative Term embark, the struggles go on. After the November Fourth victory lap, it is realized that more needs to be done. Insurance companies must be made to cover more anti-opioid medications, and to reimburse for behavioral healthcare on a par with the manner in which they do for medical and surgical therapies. There needs to be expungement reform for people living in long-term recovery, and not only for people who had the opportunity to complete drug court. Schools, and other public venues must stock and utilize naloxone. There should be an expansion of recovery community centers throughout the Garden State.

Knowing that there is more that needs to be accomplished, and wanting ever to improve the message and its delivery, the two hundred Advocates in attendance spent a good portion of the day in training workshops. Topics included: integration of mental health and substance use disorder, insurance parity, self care for advocates, helping young people, and the role of peer-to-peer support as part of therapy.

So, the Advocate Summit was partly a pat on the back, part educational, and part pep rally. We’re all looking forward to the next one.

Ed Martone
Policy Analyst


P.S. Here are some photographs of the event