New Jersey has a serious drug issue at hand. With more than 700 opiate overdose deaths since 2009, lawmakers have decided to discuss the issue. NJ along with the rest of the country is facing an opiate epidemic. In this year alone, over 125 overdoses have occurred in Ocean and Monmouth counties in New Jersey. Residents in Ocean County are dying of heroin and prescription opiate overdoses at a rate of one every two days.
Overdoses have led all accidental deaths in New Jersey, and of those, opiates have been the culprit in over 75% of the time. With a shortage in treatment options in the state, people seeking recovery are being forced to find rehab centers out of state. Those arrested for drug abuse have little option in NJ other than jail. New Jersey has a little more than 6,000 beds for over an average of 70,000 people seeking treatment. That is not even helping 10% of the people that are actually looking for help. Governor Chris Christie estimated last week that the cost for New Jersey to treat an addict through the state's drug court program is $24,000 but to jail them for a year costs $49,000. It is obvious that it would be hugely beneficial to the addict seeking treatment and the state's taxpayers, to offer treatment rather than incarcerating them.
The lack of facilities and treatment centers for people seeking help only continues the vicious cycle of addiction. The destructive lifestyle not only puts themselves in danger, but their family, friends and neighbors. The amount of crime being committed in small communities is climbing as addiction grows. Petty theft, break-ins, bank robberies used to be something that never happened in most of these towns in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, but with the opiate epidemic in full effect, addicts become desperate to get their next fix. Willing to put their future, their life and innocent lives in danger in order to get their drugs.
NJ needs to have serious talks about how they can improve the amount of facilities to accept detox and in-treatment programs. Looking into the budget and understanding that spending money on these programs will, in the long run, save lives, reduce crime-rate, cost less money on the tax payer, and provide safer neighborhoods for all.