With more than 3,000 lives lost to overdoses in New Jersey each year and an estimated 94,000+ residents needing substance abuse treatment, several Assembly Democrats sponsor legislation aimed at preventing overdoses and addressing the state’s substance abuse crisis. The bill package has been introduced in the Assembly.
“As a doctor, I know just how important it is to prepare for and respond to medical emergencies patients may encounter,” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington). “With thousands of lives lost to overdoses each year, we need a system in place to help residents struggling with substance use disorders who may be at risk for overdoses.”
“Every life lost to an overdose is a tragedy that might have been avoided with the right resources and support,” said Assemblyman John Armato (D-Atlantic). “We must do everything in our power to help prevent the needless loss of life caused by drug overdoses throughout our state.”
“We have a real need in our state for solutions to the opioid epidemic,” said Assemblyman Chris Tully (D-Bergen, Passaic). “This legislation offers practical ways to deal with this ongoing crisis and help prevent more loss of life.”
Each of the seven measures focuses on a key area of the substance abuse crisis. Several take a balanced approach to understanding and counteracting the factors that can lead to substance abuse, such as adverse childhood experiences and a lack of employment in adulthood.
“When talking about ways to tackle this important issue within our communities, we need to remember the many factors that lead to substance abuse in the first place,” said Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “A constructive and supportive approach to helping residents lead a happier, healthier life can make all the difference.”
“Just because someone has used drugs does not mean they should be barred from participating in a helpful work program,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson). “We must show compassion for the people struggling with substance use disorder and give them a path to improve their lives, rather than force them to fall back into old patterns.”
“Studies have shown that children often fare better when placed with relatives, rather than with non-relatives in foster care,” said Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester). “More residents with happier, stable childhoods will help reduce the number of people throughout our state who struggle with substance use disorder. We need to set more of our residents up for a healthier life from a young age.”
“With drug use sometimes beginning as young as 12-years-old, it is vital our State gathers information on the various health issues affecting our students,” said Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-Bergen, Hudson). “Knowing just how many children have already been exposed to harmful substances will help us better understand the scope of the issue and how to address it before it becomes more severe in adulthood.”
“We need to know more about the health challenges facing New Jersey students today,” said Assemblywoman Shanique Speight (D-Essex). “Understanding how many students are actively using harmful substances will make it easier for us to reach out and provide support to the children in our communities who need our help.”
Additional measures focus on making medicines that help treat the effects of opioids more accessible in New Jersey. These medicines include opioid antidotes such as naloxone, which can help save the life of someone experiencing an overdose, and buprenorphine, which is used to help treat opioid use disorder.
“Having immediate access to an opioid antidote when helping someone experiencing an overdose can mean the difference between life and death,” said Assemblyman Anthony Verrelli (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “It might be too late if a patient has to wait for treatment until they reach the hospital, which is why we must improve access to these medicines in our state.”
“If someone is concerned about the price of opioid antidotes, they may not seek out these important medications,” said Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “Having the information readily available to residents online will help them make an informed decision about which medicine to request at their pharmacy.”
“Opioid antidotes save lives – it’s as simple as that,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union). “There can be no confusion about pricing and accessibility when it comes to helping our community members acquire these medicines.”
“Due to the addictive nature of these drugs, unfortunately it is quite possible for someone who overdosed once to accidentally overdose again,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “We must take a holistic approach to combating overdoses by also treating opioid use disorder itself with medicines such as buprenorphine.”
The measures focused on addressing factors contributing to substance abuse are:
- A-3004 (Mukherji and Sumter): Allows residents convicted of using illegal substances to be eligible for general assistance benefits under the Work First New Jersey program;
- A-5597 (Conaway, Jimenez and Speight): Permits school districts to administer anonymous, voluntary surveys regarding students’ use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs – among other behaviors that could harm their health and well-being;
- A-5598 (Conaway, Mosquera and Tully): Requires the Department of Children and Families and court system to consider placing children with relatives, rather than placing them in the foster care system, when their parents are unable to care for them.
The measures focused on improving the accessibility of helpful medicines are:
- A-5457 (Vainieri Huttle, Verrelli and Benson): Permits any person to administer or dispense opioid antidotes;
- A-5495 (Conaway, Vainieri Huttle, Verrelli and Armato): Permits certain paramedics to issue buprenorphine to patients to whom they had to administer an opioid antidote;
- A-5595 (Verrelli, Benson and Holley): Requires the retail price of opioid antidotes to be included in the ‘New Jersey Prescription Drug Retail Price Registry,’ to make it easier for residents to readily find this information;
- A-5703 (Conaway, Verrelli and Armato): Requires health benefits carriers to provide coverage for naloxone without imposing prior authorization requirements, in order to help expedite the availability of this medicine throughout the State.