Monday, November 23, 2020

DECRIMINALIZATION POSITION

 

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence – New Jersey (NCADD-NJ) has clarified its stance on the question of decriminalization of all illicit substances. While the agency does not endorse the legalization (government allowing, providing or regulating) of drugs. NCADD-NJ does support their decriminalization. The following policy statement explains that NCADD-NJ does not believe anyone should receive either a criminal sentence/record nor incarceration for the possession or use of drugs. Criminal proceedings should be replaced by assessments and a referral to treatment when appropriate. 

Thursday, October 01, 2020

NCADD-NJ STATE BUDGET TESTIMONY (Oct. 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021)

Due to the coronavirus epidemic, along with the lack of any financial assistance from the federal government, Garden State lawmakers resorted to adopting an interim state Budget for the period of July 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2020. In Sept., the Assembly and Senate Budget Committees accepted written public comments on fiscal year proposals covering Oct. 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. Our agency, as well as, a number of our volunteer Advocates, submitted comments. The following is the NCADD-NJ organizational testimony:

 

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence – NJ (NCADD-NJ) is an incorporated non-profit organization operating in the Garden State since 1982. NCADD-NJ works in partnership with, and on behalf of, individuals, families, and communities affected by alcoholism and drug dependence, to promote recovery. We have been working for more than thirty five years to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with addictive illness. We have been strong advocates for public policies that increase access to quality treatment and recovery services.

 

NCADD-NJ also operates the Substance Abuse Initiative and Behavioral Health Initiative (SAI/BHI) to help implement the Work First New Jersey welfare-to-work program funded by the NJ Dept. of Human Services. The goal of the SAI/BHI is to eliminate addiction as a barrier to employment. The NJ Division of Family Development funds our Family Violence Option (FVO) project. The purpose of the FVO program is to afford protection to domestic violence victims who are receiving General Assistance or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families help.

 

We also provide substance misuse assessments for youth under the supervision of the NJ Juvenile Justice Commission. This assessment further includes level of care placement recommendations.

 

The present day description of the one-two punch of COVID-19 and addictions is as a crisis wrapped in a crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the psychological factors that are involved in substance use behavior. The medical journal PSYCHIATRY RESEARCH (Aug. 18, 2020) noted that the social isolation, economic hardship, worry, fear, and disruption of normal activities have resulted in increased drug misuse among those with existing addiction disorders, along with a rise in use among former abstainers.  Combine this with capacity limitations, growing waitlists, and reduced hours at many addiction treatment programs and one sees what could have long been expected – a nearly 20% increase of drug overdoses, according to a University of Baltimore study last month. Overdose deaths in New Jersey were averaging around 3,000 per annum for the past several years before COVID-19. It is blatantly obvious the State must find the resources to, not just maintain past levels of funding, but to enhance the response to an escalating need.

 

We are encouraged to see the Dept. of Human Services continue to do more with less as, among other initiatives, it has sustained its naloxone (opioid overdose reversal drug) free distribution to individuals, police depts., libraries, and homeless shelters effort, along with the launch of a program to train EMS first responders on interacting with patients following treatment from a suspect opioid overdose and linking patients to needed services.

 

A final observation – In a report issued by the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Opioid Task Force (July 28, 2020), it was determined that, although opioid prescriptions decreased in the last year, the use of illicit drugs has gone up. This leaves for a future debate the question of whether restricting access to prescribed and regulated medications, rather than decreasing drug misuse, isn’t instead, driving up customers for the illegal trade? In the Governor’s proposed nine-month Budget, he included anticipated revenue from an “opioid tax.” Our belief is that this may well have the unintended and ironic consequence of hurting the effort to mitigate the worsening drug addiction crisis in our state. Two of the drugs utilized as part of a medication assisted treatment (MAT) regimen to treat addictions, are methadone and buprenorphine. Both contain a certain amount of opioid medication (the former 10% and the latter 85%). A tax on their use will certainly make them more expensive, if not entirely inaccessible. Attaching extra costs to therapies that help people to heal seems never to be a good idea. Making it more burdensome for individuals seeking relief from chronic pain and addiction disorders would be foolish.