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. Two of the bills in a larger package passed the full Assembly Thursday.
“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.”
The measures focus on key areas of the substance abuse crisis. One bill aims to help the state understand how many young people have already begun using illegal substances.
The measure (A-5597), sponsored by Assembly Democrats Conaway, Angelica Jimenez and Shanique 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. It passed the Assembly by a vote of 48-27-0.
“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.”
The other bill (A-5595), sponsored by Assembly Democrats Anthony Verrelli, Daniel Benson and Jamel Holley, aims to make opioid antidotes more accessible in New Jersey. Opioid antidotes such as naloxone can help save the life of someone experiencing an overdose.
“Having immediate access to an opioid antidote when helping someone experiencing an overdose can mean the difference between life and death,” said Assemblyman 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.”
The bill, which passed the Assembly by a vote of 75-0-0, 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.
“If someone is concerned about the price of opioid antidotes, they may not seek out these important medications,” said Assemblyman 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 Holley (D-Union). “There can be no confusion about pricing and accessibility when it comes to helping our community members acquire these medicines.”
Both bills now head to the Senate.