Gottheimer Urges Governor Christie to Consult with Those on Frontlines of Opioid Crisis in Northern New Jersey In Advance of February 17 Federal Grant Deadline

Jan 30, 2017
Press

Gottheimer Will Fight to Bring Resources to New Jersey, Instead of Letting Tax Dollars Go to Other States

Opioid Grant Press Conference

Today, joined by law enforcement and substance abuse recovery advocates, Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) invited Governor Christie and the State of New Jersey to join him in meeting with those on the frontlines fighting the deadly opioid epidemic in Northern New Jersey to put together the strongest possible application for federal funds before the February 17th grant application deadline.

 

Gottheimer praised the exceptional work being done by leaders across the Fifth Congressional District including Bergen County Prosecutor Grewal, Sheriff Saudino, and County Executive Tedesco as well as law enforcement and recovery advocates from Passaic, Warren, and Sussex Counties and recognized the work that Governor Christie and his team are already doing on this critical issue on the state level.

 

It is my hope that in preparing their application, New Jersey state officials will consult with experts in our communities who are working on the front lines to fight the scourge of opioid addiction,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer. “We have some of the best cutting-edge work happening here in Sussex, Warren, and Passaic, and right here in Bergen County. Working together, we can turn the tide of this horrific disease. It’s critical that New Jersey fight for every nickel to help fight our opiate crisis.  If we don’t, other states will get the funds that could have saved lives here in New Jersey. We must submit a top-notch application, informed by the excellent work being done on the ground across this part of the state.”

 

“The unfortunate reality is that five people have already died of opiate-related overdoses this year alone here in Bergen County. Our first responders have already saved nearly twenty lives in 2017 with Narcan, according to County Prosecutor Grewal.  And it is still January. We lost 86 people in Bergen County last year.  And that’s just in one county. The numbers are shockingly similar in Passaic, Sussex, and Warren Counties and only growing.”

 

In a letter to Governor Chris Christie, Gottheimer wrote:

Last December, Congress passed and the President signed into law the 21st Century Cures Act. This important legislation provides funding to states though the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grants. This program aims to increase access to treatment and reduce overdose-related deaths by expanding prevention, treatment and recovery activities. As you may know, States must submit their applications by February 17th, 2017. 

As you prepare your submissions, 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.

 

 

“At CarePlus, we are dedicated to providing outpatient services to people in recovery from substance abuse disorders and were honored to host Congressman Gottheimer and others for today’s important discussion of the upcoming funding application deadline,” said CarePlus President and CEO Joe Masciandaro. “We look forward to working with Congressman Gottheimer, local and state officials, as well as law enforcement and inpatient treatment providers to improve our state’s response to the devastation of opioid addiction.”

 

 

Video of today’s event in Paramus is online HERE, HERE, and HERE

 

Congressman Gottheimer’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.

 

CONGRESSMAN JOSH GOTTHEIMER

REMARKS ON FEDERAL OPIOID GRANT APPLICATION

PARAMUS, NJ

January 30, 2017

I’d like to salute Sheriff Saudino and his team for the exceptional work they are doing to against a growing and seemingly unstoppable threat. And Prosecutor Grewal and County Executive Tedesco and their offices who are here in spirit are doing a remarkable job against this constantly evolving menace.

It’s important to be here today with you all and with the people who are on the front line of combatting the opioid epidemic.  And 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.  Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough of centers, and enough beds, to help those who are in desperate need of treatment. 

We are here to discuss the opiate crisis and the cruel disease that is tearing through our communities and indiscriminately leaving lost lives and crushed families in its wake – and the steps we can and must take to help stop it.  The unfortunate reality is that five people have already died of opiate-related overdoses this year alone here in Bergen County. Our first responders have already saved nearly twenty lives in 2017 with Narcan, according to County Prosecutor Grewal.  And it is still January. We lost 86 people in Bergen County last year.  And that’s just in one county. The numbers are shockingly similar in Passaic, Sussex, and Warren Counties and only growing.

We’ve all read about the depth of the crisis.  New Jersey’s rate of death from heroin and fentanyl far outpaces the already sky-high national problem. Across America, we have seen the rate of people dying quadruple from 2002 to 2013.  The Center for Disease Control has found that heroin use has doubled among young adults in the past decade; they also found 45% of people using heroin are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers.

This is a crisis that touches all of us. It doesn’t discriminate.  Our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, our children, are dying and leaving devastated communities behind. Here in Bergen County, just follow the Prosecutor on Twitter to see how wide spread the problem is—it’s in every town. And I’ve heard directly from law enforcement, social workers, and hospitals in Sussex, Warren, and Passaic Counties that heroin use is raging there, too.

Heroin knows no difference of class, of race, of gender, of anything else. Kids are trying pills they find at home; moms and dads are finding themselves addicted after being prescribed opioid painkillers to recover from an injury.

What starts with simple experimentation by a previously good student or even a prescribed medication for a star athlete or a successful executive can transform quickly into a full-blown addiction. And when Oxycotin is going for $40 a pill and a bag of heroin is only $5, it’s easy to see how that addiction can progress. This gets even more dangerous and troubling since we’ve been seeing more people turn to fentanyl and suppliers lacing heroin with it. Fentanyl is behind a huge and growing number of the overdoses that we see and must be stopped. According to a 2015 poll, Sussex County residents say illegal drugs are the most serious problem facing their community.

I saw this problem first-hand last week when I went on a ride-along through parts of the “Heroin Highway” with the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department.

We drove through Paterson to Teaneck to Fairlawn and Franklin Lakes. I saw the route that heroin is moving through our communities, from Bergen along Routes 208 and 17 up through Route 23 into Sussex, and how easy it is with cars driving in and out – often the same cars, every few minutes.  While I was out with the Sheriff’s deputies, who were remarkably impressive, I saw a car pulled over and a dog working to locate heroin in a side panel.  They are working overtime to stop the drugs from getting into our communities into our communities in the first place.  But it is no easy task.  It’s just them against a massive industry—the drug trade.

And let me just say, the Sheriff and his team, working in tandem with local and federal law enforcement, Prosecutor Grewal and County Executive Tedesco, do a remarkable job as does the leadership in the other counties of my district.  They are tackling this crisis from end-to-end, working their hearts out and putting their lives on the line to block this runaway train.  For them, it’s not just about stopping criminals and keeping the drugs out of our towns and schools. It’s also about saving and turning around lives.  We are all enormously grateful. 

Here in Bergen County, for example, we saw “Operation Helping Hand” this past fall have a big impact in connecting those in need with the resources to help them. The Prosecutor’s Office worked with Bergen County Hospital to set aside beds for those arrested in a drug sweep for a five-day detox program.  The hope was that they would enter long-term treatment. It was so successful that the Prosecutor had to close it down early because they simply ran out of beds. 

The Narcan programs are arming law enforcement across the state with this life-saving drug. I was at Holy Name this morning talking about the program’s success.

And today, in Sussex County, the Center for Prevention is hosting a Narcan training to help community members save more lives from overdose.

Sussex County is also seeing promising results through their C.L.E.A.R Program — Community Law Enforcement Addiction Recovery Program — which is working in a team effort to improve prevention through outreach and education programs across the county. I met with Sheriff Strada recently and talked with him about their efforts in the fight against drug abuse. We need more of these innovative programs to combat this epidemic.

But, as law enforcement will tell you, we cannot arrest our way out of this problem. Addiction is a disease, and we need to treat it by providing help to those who want it.

Programs like the outpatient programs and twelve-step recovery here at CarePlus are absolutely essential to combatting substance abuse. And I’m grateful to Katherine and Joe of CarePlus for sharing the stories they’ve heard on the front lines of this crisis with us today.  It’s because of advocates and brave people in recovery that we’re starting to see the de-stigmatization of substance misuse disorders.

And one of the biggest problems we need to fix to stem the tide of this epidemic is a lack of access to treatment. Part of the reason we are losing the war on addiction is because we aren’t able to provide treatment to all those who want it. Right now, we just don’t have enough beds to provide inpatient treatment. We’re sending addicts back out without help. I heard this from law enforcement the other night — you have to stop this drug trafficking on the streets, but there are more people who want treatment than we have beds.

Our County Executive Jim Tedesco is doing excellent work with our county hospital–but they are limited by the number of beds they have — only 54. It’s a pattern that we see across the state. There are more people who need help than treatment beds available.

The people at Newton Medical Center told me that they’re seeing a vicious cycle right in their hospital — people overdose on the street or in their homes, are saved with Narcan, are rushed to the Emergency Room, then are released hours later as soon as their high ends because there is no treatment bed available to help them, only to overdose and come back to the hospital hours later. 

Here is the good news: we have a big opportunity in the coming months to significantly expand access to treatment. Late last year, with bipartisan support, Congress passed the America Cures Act to take on the opiate crisis. This new law recognizes that expanding access to treatment is key, including steps to help bring more beds for treatment into our District.

Among other steps, the law allows for states to apply for additional resources through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. For example, the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant program helps with increased access to treatment.

But the deadline is coming up soon. Applications from New Jersey to the federal government for grant dollars are due by February 17th.  It’s critical that New Jersey fight for every nickel to help fight our opiate crisis.  If we don’t, other states will get the funds that could have saved lives here in New Jersey. We must submit a top-notch application, informed by the excellent work being done on the ground across this part of the state. 

As you all have heard me say, we pay too much in taxes to be getting such a poor return on investment from the federal government. This is a case in point and a key opportunity for the Fifth Congressional District. Bringing our federal tax dollars home to fight the epidemic of opioid addiction just makes sense.

We know that New Jersey is taking this issue seriously. Governor Christie devoted part of his State of the State Address earlier this month to his plans for New Jersey. The Governor remarked that the opiate crisis “is more urgent to New Jersey’s families than any other issue we could confront.” I want to thank the Governor for his proposed multi-faceted 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

It is my hope that in preparing their application, New Jersey state officials will consult with experts in our communities who are working on the front lines to fight the scourge of opioid addiction. We have some of the best cutting-edge work happening here in Sussex, Warren, and Passaic, and right here in Bergen County, with the Prosecutor, Sheriff, County Executive, and social workers and advocates like those at CarePlus. We need to make sure we get the best advice and support for the right programs. 

As I wrote in a letter to the Governor earlier today, I’m happy to convene a meeting of medical experts, law enforcement, non-profits, and other leaders here with Governor Christie, so we can do everything possible to make the strongest possible application for federal funds.

Because we know that we are only going to beat this disease by working together.  And I – and so may others — are here to help.

We know there is no silver bullet when it comes to fighting the opioid epidemic. We need a comprehensive approach that hits at this crisis from every angle. And we have an opportunity to strengthen one facet of our attack coming up in the next few weeks by aggressively pursuing these federal funds to expand access to treatment.

Working together, we can turn the tide of this horrific disease that sees no political party, no religious divides, no race, class, age or gender divisions.

I stand with you, ready to do everything I can to help. Thank you.

 

And the text of Congressman Gottheimer’s letter to Governor Christie is below.

 

January 30, 2017

 

Governor Christie
Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625

 

Dear Governor Christie:

 

As you reiterated in your State of the State address, opioid drug abuse continues to tear through our communities in New Jersey. This drug epidemic does not discriminate against age, gender, race, income, education or other social divisions. We cannot hesitate to act boldly. As leaders in this effort to address the opioid crisis, few, if any, will look back and question strong and thoughtful action, but all will question inaction or a response that is inadequate given the enormity of the problem at hand. I offer an opportunity to coordinate your effort with mine to obtain federal resources and hear from our local officials and stakeholders.   

 

We have seen the opioid abuse problem firsthand in the 5th Congressional District (CD). As of writing this, five people have already died this year in Bergen County. 19 lives have already been saved by naloxone. From Hackensack to Franklin Lakes, the county experienced 158 opioid-related overdoses with 40 fatalities in 2016. Similar statistics are occurring in Passaic, Sussex and Warren Counties. As you know, New Jersey’s death and overdose statistics are already outpacing most states. 

 

While the 5th CD is seeing the problem, we are also seeing solutions. Bergen County Prosecutor Grewal’s office found 170 lives were saved by naloxone in 2015. Naloxone saves lives. The office also recently worked with Bergen Regional Medical Center to set aside beds for a five-day detox for those arrested in “Operation helping Hand”—helping to connect those in need with the necessary resources to start getting back on the right track. While law enforcement also needs resources, we cannot expect them to solve this difficult problem alone. One reoccurring challenge, as you know, is the lack of beds and other treatment resources. Bergen Regional Medical Center, for example, has nearly 55 detox beds; while a great program and effort, more is always in demand. Many of the solutions here are clear.

 

Last December, Congress passed and the President signed into law the 21st Century Cures Act. This important legislation provides funding to states though the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grants. This program aims to increase access to treatment and reduce overdose-related deaths by expanding prevention, treatment and recovery activities. As you may know, States must submit their applications by February 17th, 2017.

 

As you prepare your submissions, 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.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Josh Gottheimer

MEMBER OF CONGRESS

 

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