Gov. Christie Declares Opioid Epidemic A Public Health Crisis
Tuesday, Gov. Christine signed an executive order that will free resources to battle addiction in New Jersey – the heroin death rate in the state is twice that of the national average. By some estimates, there are about 128,000 heroin addicts in New Jersey, and that number is continues to be rising.
Between 2014-2015, deaths due to heroin jumped 22%, the state incurring 1,600 fatalities in 2015.
The executive order will create an a task force aimed at identifying new approaches to battle the increasing public health crisis. In addition, the order also directs the attorney general to limit the number of first-time opioid prescriptions that physicians write, and to put in place guidelines that would make it more difficult for patients to “doctor shop.”
Earlier this month, Christie announced that addiction would be a priority for his administration, and he spent a significant portion of his State of the State address on his plans to battle the rising numbers of opioid addictions.
He plans to expand the Recovery Coach Program, as well as increase reimbursements to make addiction treatment both more affordable and accessible.
Also as part of his ,plan, Christie announced the launch of a new website, reachnj.gov, as well as a hotline to assist addicts streamline their access to treatment.
Additionally, he says he would like to add beds in treatment centers for older teens and implement opioid education in schools.
“There’s going to be lots of different pieces to try and solve this problem. It’s a disease; we’re doing this because it could be anybody.”
The order was signed at a substance abuse treatment center, Integrity House. There, Christie engaged in discussion with addicts, and listed to them talk about their stories and struggles. People who attended the signing appeared genuinely grateful that Christie took the time to speak with sufferers, although some of them did not agree with his politics.
Christie to the group after signing the executive order:
“The reason I do this, is because many of the ideas I laid out in the State of the State speech … came from meetings like this.”
Of note, the event took place less than an hour after Lt. Gov. Kim Guagdano announced her candidacy for governor. Guagdano appears to have been distancing herself from Christie over the last few months, as his approval rating continues to remain low – the lowest of any New Jersey governor in more than 20 years.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology