The Record: Gottheimer talks opioid crisis in Paramus
The CarePlus facility in Paramus offers treatment and counseling for mental health and substance use.
On Monday morning, it also served as the location for Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-Wyckoff, to address the opioid addiction crisis plaguing New Jersey.
“I’m happy to be here at CarePlus where they are doing exceptional work to support people in recovery at sites like this one across northern New Jersey,” Gottheimer said. “Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough of centers, and enough beds, to help those who are in desperate need of treatment.”
Gottheimer noted the need for resources and money to fight the opioid crisis. The congressman said hewas focused on applying for federal money through the 21st Century Cures Act, which provides financing to states through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grants. Gottheimer said he had been in contact with Governor Christie about submitting an application before the Feb. 17 deadline.
Gottheimer said he had sent a letter to Christie regarding opioid drug abuse and applying to SAMHSA.
“As you prepare your submissions,” the letter reads, “I would like to offer the opportunity to sit down with local officials and stakeholders here in Bergen, Sussex, Warren, and Passaic counties to give you input on what they are seeing firsthand and suggestions.
“Thank you for your commitment to this important issue. I look forward to working with your office.”
Christie made the opioid crisis and its treatment central parts of his State of the State address.
New Jersey’s rate of heroin-related deaths last year was more than double the national rate – nearly 1,600 or three times the number of deaths as car accidents, Christie said.
In his State of the State address last month, Christie vowed to expand drug treatment on several fronts: he called for a new law prohibiting insurance companies from denying anyone treatment for the first six months; directing the attorney general to use an emergency rule to limit the number of opioid prescriptions that physicians can write; spending $12 million to open beds for teenagers who need help. He also announced the launch of a website, reachnj.gov, and hotline (844-REACH-NJ), that would increase access to treatment and information of substance abuse and rehabilitation programs.
But some experts said that without preserving the Medicaid expansion—which is threatened with the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act – it will be impossible to carry out the governor’s plans.
Under Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in 2014, which provides coverage for about 500,000 state residents, New Jersey for the first time paid for substance abuse treatment for poor and low-income residents.
But so far Christie has been quiet on the issue, even as Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan and other Republican governors have made their pleas to congressional Republican leaders to maintain the Medicaid expansion as they seek to replace the Affordable Care Act.
Christie’s spokesman, Brian Murray, has said the administration is drafting a letter in response to the potential repeal. On Monday he did not respond to an email seeking an update.
While in Paramus, Gottheimer thanked Christie for for his proposed multifaceted approach to the heroin crisis, including the new task force, hotline and website to directly connect people in need with the resources that can help them kick this disease.
Gottheimer further noted that Bergen County alone saw 86 deaths due to opioid-related overdoses last year, with similar numbers in Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties. In Bergen County, five people have died due to opioid-related overdoses since the start of 2017, and 19 lives have been saved through the use of naloxone.
He emphasized that, due to the severity of New Jersey’s opioid crisis, the state should fight to get as much money as possible.
“If we don’t, other states will get the funds that could have saved lives here in New Jersey,” Gottheimer said.
“This is a crisis that touches all of us,” he said. “It doesn’t discriminate. Our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, our children, are dying and leaving devastated communities behind.”