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Wimberly, Reynolds-Jackson & Sumter Bill to Expand Support Team Recovery Programs Advances

A bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Benjie Wimberly, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, and Shavonda Sumter would codify the existing Support Teams for Addiction Recovery (STAR) program within the Department of Human Services, ensuring it can continue to deliver critical case management and recovery support services for those struggling with opioid use disorders. The legislation cleared the Assembly Human Services Committee last Thursday.

The bill (A-5625) comes amid the backdrop of a nationwide epidemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that nearly 645,000 people in the United States died from an opioid overdose between 1999 and 2021. In 2022, there were approximately 3,071 overdose deaths in New Jersey.

In addition to codifying the STAR program, the bill would allow money received by the State from national opioid litigation settlements and deposited into the Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund to be allocated to STAR teams.

“With this legislation, we are ensuring the money our State receives from companies that have contributed to the opioid crisis is used to support the recovery and wellness of those struggling with addiction,” said Assemblyman Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “By using the state’s existing Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund to supplement federal dollars supporting the STAR program, we are investing in the long-term success of this program and ensuring New Jersey families have the support they need to battle addiction.”

Assemblyman Wimberly noted that, under the bill, $1.715 million would be allocated to the program to help teams deliver case management and recovery support services to more New Jersey residents.

“Putting resources in reach of individuals with opioid use disorders is paramount,” said Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “Our State has seen the devastation caused by the opioid crisis, and too many of our residents have been forced to bury a loved one. That is why it is so important to bolster Support Teams for Addiction Recovery, ensuring more New Jerseyans can feel the positive impact of recovery support services.”

The bill also aims to grow the STAR Jail expansion program, which connects individuals with recovery resources prior to their release from jail to establish initial contact and prepare for follow-up. It allocates $192,500 to expand the STAR Jail expansion program to Passaic County and $87,500 to cover wage increases for the STAR Jail expansion teams across Atlantic, Bergen, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Ocean counties.

“The opioid epidemic has already touched so many families and communities across our state,” said Assemblywoman Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “By investing in key initiatives—like the STAR program—we are making a commitment to our residents that we will not let them suffer alone. I am proud to sponsor legislation to make this successful program a permanent fixture in New Jersey’s fight against the opioid crisis.”

The bill now awaits further consideration from the Speaker.