Friday, October 25, 2019


In years when one, or both, houses of the state Legislature are up for election, NCADD-NJ conducts a survey of the candidates on issues of addictions policies. This year, all eighty seats are up in the NJ Assembly and the candidates were mailed the questionnaire shortly after Labor Day. It is intended to gauge general policy inclinations rather than pinpoint support or opposition for specific legislative proposals. It also serves as an introduction for some as to the concerns of the addictions community.

NCADD-NJ neither endorses candidates for office nor contributes donations to political campaigns. A candidate’s response is scanned and posted on our website. The remarks are not critiqued nor given a rating. It is hoped that all eligible voters will exercise that constitutional right in November. The 2019 NJ Assembly Addiction Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Survey is designed to assist voters in comparing candidates’ positions on alcohol and drug dependence-related public policies.

Forty-one candidates answered the questionnaire and the attitude change and approach expressed was dramatic and encouraging. All acknowledged addictive behavior as a disorder requiring a public health response. This represents a shift from a few years ago when most viewed it as a character flaw that had to be punished. A good deal of the credit for this more refined perspective is attributable to the sophisticated and selfless testimony of people struggling with addictions and their families who have bravely articulated their challenges in securing adequate services in order to attain and maintain long-term recovery.

* All but two respondents indicated support for sufficient funding for treatment and recovery programs. This is an important commitment, as we need the resources of the state to ensure a substantive engagement with the crisis.

* All but two of the candidates endorsed the voluntary consent to be transported to a detox or treatment program for someone who had been revived from a drug overdose. The identical number supported giving that person a medication to alleviate the ensuing withdrawal symptoms after the administration of an opioid overdose reversal drug, such as naloxone (brand name – Narcan).

* Thirty of the forty-one respondents agreed that more public spaces, such as colleges, libraries, sports arenas, etc. should be mandated to stock naloxone and train certain staff on its use.

* All respondents support recovery community centers, however, seven believe they should exist privately, without public funding. A further six see these centers as a good idea – but not in their home county.

* Each of the candidates suggested an endorsement of enhancing current drug, alcohol and mental health programs in jails and prisons; expanding access to criminal record expungement relief for individuals who can demonstrate long-term recovery; and increasing alternatives to incarceration for non-violent drug offenders. Meanwhile, three suggested toughening criminal penalties in tandem with these initiatives would also work.

* On the question of recreational use of small amounts of marijuana by adults, of the forty-one candidates participating in the survey:
- Five support legalization and regulation
- Fifteen support decriminalization
- Eight would support either legalization or decriminalization
- Six would prefer keeping the present legal prohibition in place
- Five would prefer keeping the present legal prohibition in place, while making changes to the existing law
- Two did not respond to this particular question  

To read the questionnaire responses from the participating candidates, click here

Ed Martone
Policy Analyst

Tuesday, October 08, 2019


The NCADD-NJ staff and Board of Directors have recently embarked upon an introspective examination of the organization for purposes of drawing up a Strategic Plan for the future. Part of the process has been a retrospective look at the origins of NCADD-NJ and its development up to the present day. It is illuminating to review the early days and how they inform plans for moving forward.

Recently, our President/CEO, Wayne Wirta, mined his institutional memory and sketched out some of the past highlights of the organization. It was an offshoot of the National Council on Alcoholism that was founded in 1945. It was incorporated as a non-profit, tax-exempt entity in the Garden State in 1982 by several directors of local county-based affiliates of the National Council on Alcoholism. The affiliate directors around the state believed there needed to be a presence in the State Capitol.
The institution became fully operational in 1985 with grants from The Fund for New Jersey and the state Division of Alcoholism. Wayne was retained as Executive Director in August, 1988 and the agency moved from a trade association to a statewide policy council – and the name was changed to the New Jersey Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. The organization set up shop in a former funeral home in Trenton, on a budget of $70,000, and with Wayne and a part-time secretary. The first two years of operation consisted primarily of monitoring addiction-related legislation, meeting with legislators and testifying at hearings, developing informational pamphlets aimed at reducing the stigma around addiction, and exhibiting at conferences throughout the state.

In 1990, the agency’s bi-monthly newsletter, PERSPECTIVES began publication and became the only statewide organ that disseminated current, addiction-related news. The following year saw the launch of the Congregation Assistance Program. It established and trained “core teams” within individual congregations to educate the members on the nature of addictive illnesses and to act as primary contacts for individuals needing assistance. One year later, we set up a training institute to provide courses that would move a person toward attaining a Certified Alcoholism Counselor designation.

The organization name was changed to its present moniker, NCADD-NJ in 1997. The occasion was marked in the Statehouse with a ceremony keynoted by then-U.S. Senator, George McGovern.

During Governor Christine Todd Whitman’s Administration, conventional wisdom held, that people on welfare who were addicted and required to secure training or work, would need treatment before being able to do so. Thus was born the Work First New Jersey – Substance Abuse Initiative. It was the intent of the project to not simply manage the care, but to also act as advocates for those on welfare to receive the most sufficient level of therapy for the most appropriate length of time. With virtually no fiscal restrictions from the state with regard to treatment costs, we have been able to realize that goal. This further resulted in an almost overnight staff expansion from six people, to what is now a one hundred forty person Administrative Services Organization (ASO).

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, NCADD-NJ received a federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) with which we established the “Friends of Addiction Recovery – New Jersey.” The objective of the project was to put a face on recovery so as to reduce the stigma around addiction, and to advocate for policies that would foster long-term recovery.

NCADD-NJ moved in to its present Robbinsville headquarters in 2006. The following year, the agency extended its reach to the Far West. The organization developed and operated complex data and voucher systems for the Montana/Wyoming Tribal Leaders.

In 2008, we were fortunate to be one of five agencies to receive a Closing the Addiction Treatment Gap grant from the Open Society Foundations in the amount of $200,000. Its purpose was to provide public awareness and advocacy around the need to obtain more resources to offer therapy for individuals suffering from addictive illness. The grant was for three years but in 2011 we were one of two organizations who received extensions that lasted until 2015. Under this grant, we were able to increase staff and began the Advocacy Leader Program. It started with a class of 35 individuals who applied to be a part of the program. It has steadily grown from that point to where we now have over a thousand people signed on as volunteers and 12 active regions that hold monthly meetings and put on annual public awareness events in their local communities.

In 2009, the state Division of Family Development (DFD) asked us to assume responsibility for the Mental Health Initiative in seven counties. The Mental Health Initiative is different from the SAI in that we don’t authorize or pay for treatment. We assess the client and refer to the appropriate provider and give support to try to ensure that the client enters the treatment program. In 2012, the Mental Health Initiative was extended to the entire state and we received an additional million dollars from DFD to provide the services.

We received a grant in 2014 from New Jersey Citizen Action to promote the use of Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) in order to provide identification of minors beginning early substance misuse. We further received a grant from them to inform the recovery community about insurance reform and how to sign up for what has become known as Obama Care, a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act. A one-year grant was bestowed upon us in 2016 from the Open Society Foundations to train and support the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania in establishing an Advocacy Leader Program such as we have done in the Garden State.

A more recent grant of $20,000 was received from the Legal Action Center to participate in the national Parity at Ten Project. The purpose was to have insurance parity legislation enacted at the state level ten years after it had been passed by the Federal Government. The problem was that, although legislation was passed mandating that health plans reimburse for behavioral healthcare on a par with the manner in which physical, medical therapy was paid for, it was up to the states to enforce it. This was something that, by and large, had not been done. NCADD-NJ and the NJ Parity Coalition were successful in securing adoption of this legislation earlier this year.

In 2018, we also worked with the Mental Health Association in NJ to obtain a grant from a private, family foundation in New York to expand our Advocacy Leader program to include those individuals suffering solely from mental illness. We enhanced the membership in three of our Regional Advocate Teams in order to do this, and subsequently received a sub-grant from the MHA in NJ in the amount of $20,000 over a two year period.

Also in 2018, the NJ Dept. of Human Services’ Division of Family Development (DFD) awarded us the Family Violence Option (FVO) initiative. The six FVO Regional Risk Assessors conduct risk evaluations in the county welfare offices statewide and provide safety planning for the General Assistance (GA) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) recipients. The FVO Risk Assessors then recommend any one of six work or training waivers. The purpose of the FVO waivers is to protect the GA/TANF recipients who are in imminent danger from the perpetrator, and for individuals who want to move forward and become self-sufficient.

As NCADD-NJ plans for its future endeavors, it acknowledges the strong foundation set by the pioneers of the agency. It is not an organization buffeted by the winds of fate. Rather, its destiny lies in the judgment and actions of its Board of Directors, staff and volunteer leadership.