(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Benjie Wimberly, Joseph Lagana, Joe Danielsen and Sheila Oliver to require the establishment of public awareness campaign to educate citizens about dangers and causes of; and appropriate responses to, heroin and opioid addiction was released by an Assembly panel on Monday.
“In roughly five years, New Jersey has seen an increase of more than 200 percent in the number of admissions to licensed or certified treatment programs for prescription drug abuse, and a 700-percent increase over the last decade,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The Hope Initiative will give this crisis the focus it deserves in this state and educate residents on how to help themselves and loved ones who are addicted to heroin and opioids.”
The bill would require the Division of Mental health and Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services to establish and oversee a public awareness campaign that would be known as the “Heroin and OPIOD Drug Public Education (HOPE) Intiative.”
“Heroin and opioid addiction crosses racial, socio-economic and professional boundaries,” said Lagana (D-Bergen, Passaic). “We must raise public awareness of the heroin and opioid addiction rapidly affecting all of New Jersey’s communities.”
“With the Hope Initiative Awareness Campaign, we can help residents help themselves and their loved ones suffering from addiction,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset). “We can also dispel commonly accepted myths and stereotypes of drug addiction and lead them to treatment facilities enabling them to rebuild their lives.”
“Curbing the prescription drug and heroin epidemic in this state will require a comprehensive legislative approach, including an addiction awareness and education campaign to help restore hope in our communities,” said Oliver (D-Essex, Passaic). “Not one group or area can lay claim to having been hit the hardest by this kind of addiction. Many families in New Jersey have been affected by addiction of this kind. It’s time to encourage individuals and families to seek the help they desperately need to live drug-free. “
The bill will require the division to work in consultation with the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, the Partnership for a Drug-free New Jersey, and, as appropriate, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, in developing, coordinating, implementing, and overseeing the HOPE Initiative.
The Hope Initiative provides for the coordinated and widespread public dissemination of individual case stories and other generalized information that is designed to include (but not limited to) the following::
1.) Identify the pathways than can lead to opioid abuse and heroin use, and the reasons why opioid abuse may evolve into heroin use;
2.) Show the new face of heroin and opioid addiction, and rebut the commonly accepted myths and stereotypes about heroin users and opioid abusers;
3.) Condemn and stigmatize the abuse and diversion of prescription opioid drugs, while recognizing the legitimate use of the same opioid drugs as medications;
4.) Describe the effects and warning signs of heroin use and opioid abuse, so as to better enable members of the public to determine when help is needed.
The information to be provided through the HOPE Initiative would be disseminated using every available type of media.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee.