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New Jersey Is Slated To Get Up to $22 Million To Combat Opioid Epidemic

According to the latest statistical data from the state Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, released in May this year, more than 28,000 New Jersey residents sought treatment for their opioid use disorders in 2014. Prescription opiate pain relievers and heroin admissions accounted for 49% of all substance abuse admissions in the state, the highest percentage in at least a decade. Heroin alone accounted for the vast majority of this figure, with over 24,000 admissions, as new state regulations and rules crack down on prescription opiate painkillers, while heroin remains a plentiful, easily accessible and inexpensive alternative.

Federal data released this month show that the rate of opioid-related overdose deaths in New Jersey had dropped just below the average national rate ( 14.0 per 100,000 NJ residents compared to 14.7 the average national) by 2014 and saw a stabilization in recent years.

On June 14, the White House released the estimated amount of funding each state could qualify for under President Obama's $1.1 billion proposal to help Americans struggling with opiate use disorders get the medication-assisted treatment they urgently need. The new mandatory funding requested by President Obama depends however on bipartisan support. The distribution of final funding amount will be based on the state's opioid-related death rate as well as the availability of substance abuse treatment beds in the state.

According to federal data, the state of New Jersey ranks 26th nationwide in terms of prescription opiate abuse and heroin-related deaths and would thus be eligible for up to $22 million over 2 years for the implementation of treatment and prevention programs. New Jersey DHS data show a total of 781 opioid overdose deaths recorded in 2014, almost double the total number of deaths recorded a couple of years earlier.

In New York, the opiate-related death rate (11.3 per 100,000 residents) has hovered well below the average national rate for years, ranked 39th nationwide and could receive up to $44 million over 2 years. Pennsylvania ranked 8th nationwide, with an opiate-related death rate of 21.9 per 100k residents and would be eligible for up to $46 million, while Delaware ranked 9th and is looking to collect $4 million.

The State Director with the National Drug Policy Alliance, Roseanne Scotti warned that in the absence of greater resources, community providers and local governments will not have the ability to meet the high demand for specialized treatment services in NJ. Substance abuse treatment facilities in New Jersey have reported demand is higher than it has ever been, and some of them have waiting lists for treatment beds that are dozens of names long. Private insurance was used to cover only 10% of all substance abuse admissions in 2014, down from 22% the year before.

Irrespective of the new mandatory funding proposed by the Obama Administration, the state of New Jersey is getting over $1 million for the expansion of substance abuse treatment services. In March this year, the Health Department (HHS) announced the distribution of $94 million among a total of 271 health centers across the nation. The funds will benefit 3 health centers in New Jersey - Henry J. Austin Health Center located in Trenton, which will receive $352,083; Atlanticare Heath Services located in Egg Harbor Township, $325,000 and Project Hope located in Camden, $324,316.

In 2014, Governor Chris Christie established a task force to examine the multi-faceted impact of heroin and prescription opioid abuse in the state and further support the ongoing fight against the opioid epidemic in NJ's communities. Emphasizing that drug addiction is "not a moral failing", but a pernicious and potentially fatal disease, Gov. Christie has since increased the availability of Narcan, set up hotlines for opioid users and their loved ones, expanded drug courts that shift drug offenders into treatment programs and strengthened NJ’s Prescription Monitoring Program through several partnerships with other states, among others.

In January, US Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6th Dist.) introduced legislation which would allocate $500 million per year to cover the necessary funds for first responders, more treatment slots and additional training for physicians who prescribe opiate painkillers. Additionally, Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez (both D-N.J.) co-sponsored a measure which passed in March and provides expanded access to the emergency, life-saving treatment naloxone (Narcan), a prescription opioid overdose reversal medicine whose intranasal administration requires no special training.

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