Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jan 2017
Source: Herald News (West Paterson, NJ)
Copyright: 2017 North Jersey Media Group Inc.
Author: Dustin Racioppi


Christie this week reaffirmed his public commitment to making N.J. a
national leader in fighting drug addiction.


Governor Christie speaks about drug addiction at a Walgreens in East
Brunswick on Dec. 22, 2016.(Photo: Nicholas Pugliese/STATE HOUSE BUREAU)

Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday visited a Walgreens in East Brunswick to
highlight initiatives the company is undertaking to promote the safe
disposal of unused prescriptions drugs and expand access to a medicine
that can reverse an opioid overdose.

His final public appearance before Christmas came on the heels of a
related event Wednesday evening where Christie and former Gov. Jim
McGreevey led a candlelight vigil on the State House steps in memory of
people who have died from or are struggling with addiction.

"Too many people are dying. Too many people are suffering unnecessarily,"
Christie said Wednesday. "There is no reason why, no reason why, someone
who deserves and needs treatment in this state doesn't get it."

In a week when the Democrat-led Legislature canceled votes on a bill that
would have allowed Christie to profit off a book while in office, and the
deeply unpopular governor sparred with reporters on Twitter over another
bill to end the mandatory publication of legal ads in newspapers, Christie
also reaffirmed his commitment to making New Jersey a national leader in
fighting drug addiction.

It's an area in which Christie has received plaudits from both political
parties for his position and initiatives while in office, and one that has
a personal edge to it. He lost a longtime friend who overdosed on
painkillers in 2014.

Across the country, opioids, which include heroin, killed more than 33,000
people last year -- more than any year on record, according to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly half of those deaths involved a
prescription opioid.

Fatal drug overdoses, largely due to opioids, soared last year to 1,587 in
New Jersey alone, the attorney general's office said earlier this month.

"This fight in saving lives is one of those great opportunities you get as
governor," Christie said Thursday.

A vigil held in support of people, families, and loved ones impacted by
substance use issues and honoring the lives taken by addiction outside the
New Jersey State House on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. (Photo: Michael

At Walgreens, Christie stood next to a newly installed stainless steel
kiosk that allows people to safely dispose of prescription and
over-the-counter medication rather than leaving it around the house, where
it can be abused or stolen, or flushing it down the toilet, which can
cause environmental damage. Similar boxes are in 16 Walgreens branches
throughout the state, Christie said, and the effort builds on the success
of a nearly identical initiative called Project Medicine Drop the state
started in 2011.

Walgreens representatives also said Thursday that naloxone, more commonly
known by the brand name Narcan, is now available without a prescription at
all its New Jersey locations. The medicine helps reverse the potentially
deadly effects of opioids and can now be acquired by anyone worried about
someone struggling with opioid dependency.

A Safe Medication Disposal kiosk in a Walgreens in East Brunswick. (Photo:
Nicholas Pugliese/STATE HOUSE BUREAU)

Since April 2014, law enforcement and emergency personnel throughout New
Jersey have used Narcan more than 22,000 times, according to the
governor's office.

During his tenure, Christie has overseen the expansion of the New Jersey
Prescription Monitoring Program, which helps prevent doctor-shopping for
painkiller prescriptions, to connect with databases maintained by
neighboring states. He's championed the state's mandatory drug court
program, which sends non-violent offenders to treatment programs instead
of prison. And sometime next year, he expects to open the former Mid-State
Correctional Facility in Burlington County as a substance-abuse treatment
center for prisoners.

Christie often says that his ultimate goal is to remove the stigma
associated with drug addiction.

"All of us, if we took a little time to think about it, know that we have
people in our lives who are touched by addiction," he said Thursday. "Do
you think they're lesser parents because of this happening? Do you think
they're lesser spouses, lesser siblings because this has happened inside
their families?"

"I think when you think about it, the answer is no," he said. "This is a
disease, and it's a disease that needs to be treated just like cancer or
diabetes or heart disease."

Those struggling with addiction can call the state's 24/7 addiction
support hotline, 211.
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