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.

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