RELEASE: Gottheimer, Sen. Booker Announce New Legislation to Combat Fentanyl and Opioid Epidemic in New Jersey and the U.S.

75% of NJ Opioid Drug overdoses Involved Fentanyl

Aug 25, 2023
Press

Above: Gottheimer at New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus to announce steps to combat the fentanyl epidemic.

PARAMUS, NJ — Today, August 25, 2023, at New Bridge Medical Center, U.S. Congressman Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) announced the Preventing Overdoses with Test Strips Act, which will allow federal and state governments to deploy federal grants to community organizations so they can acquire fentanyl test strips — a commonsense and proven step to saving the lives. Gottheimer is leading the legislation in the House and Booker is leading it in the Senate.

Gottheimer and Booker also toured Bergen New Bridge Medical Center’s Substance Use Disorder Treatment Program where they met with healthcare professionals. 

Opioid and Fentanyl Statistics:

  • About 300 Americans die every single day from an opioid overdose. 
  • Over the last five years, New Jersey has lost nearly 2,500 people every year to opioid related overdoses. 
  • In 2019, fentanyl was involved in nearly 75 percent of those drug overdoses in New Jersey — up from just four percent seven years prior. 
  • Fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Just 2 milligrams of fentanyl, which is about 10 to15 grains of table salt, is considered a lethal dose.
  • Research has shown that 81% of individuals with access to test strips regularly use them, and those who receive positive results were five times more likely to modify their drug use behavior.

The Preventing Overdoses with Test Strips Act amends current federal legislation to ensure that certain grant programs can cover expenses related to the acquisition and usage of test strips that detect the presence of fentanyl, xylazine, and other substances. Research has shown that 81% of individuals with access to test strips regularly use them, and those who receive positive results were five times more likely to modify their drug use behavior. 

“Across Jersey and our nation, the fentanyl epidemic is tearing families and communities apart. We all wish there was a magic bullet to stop addiction and abuse. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t exist. That’s why we all must come together — Democrats and Republicans — to do everything we can to stop the disease of opioid addiction,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “I’m proud to help lead in the House the Preventing Overdoses with Test Strips Act — a commonsense and proven step to protecting the lives of our loved ones.“

“For decades, America has waged a War on Drugs that has been disastrous for the most marginalized people in our nation,” said Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). “Repeating the failed drug policies of the past will not solve the opioid crisis that our nation currently faces and will instead only perpetuate problems. A public health crisis requires a public health response, and expanding access to lifesaving test strips, which allow people to check if a pill or drug contains a fatal substance, is essential to reducing the record number of deaths caused by the opioid epidemic.”

“In recent years, Bergen New Bridge Medical Center has made critical investments to better serve its patients,” continued Senator Booker.“I was proud to visit the center and discuss its multifaceted approach to treat substance use disorders, which has been critical in helping our state fight the opioid epidemic.”

“I fully support the bill that has been proposed by Senator Cory Booker and supported by Congressman Josh Gottheimer. It is important that we save the lives of the people we care about. The statistics show that unintentional overdoses leading to deaths have occurred due to synthetic opioids that have been added to the drugs. This is why the drug test strips are critical in saving the lives of our families and loved ones,” said Bergen County Commissioner Rafael Marte.

“Drugs laced with fentanyl are destroying too many lives, in Bergen County and our country,” said Bergen County Commissioner Tracy Zur. “This legislation gives those battling addiction a chance to avoid the death sentence of synthetic opioids and access the care they need to combat their illness.”  

“Fentanyl has caused tremendous harm to New Jersey families,” said Assemblywoman Lisa Swain. “Providing test strips is a common-sense, bipartisan solution that will help save lives.”

Gottheimer was joined by Senator Cory Booker, Assemblywoman Lisa Swain, Bergen County Commissioner Tracy Zur, Bergen County Commissioner Rafael Marte, Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton, and New Bridge Medical Center’s Medical Director of Addiction Medicine Dr. Anthony Accurso, and Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco.

Video of today’s announcement can be found here.

Below: Gottheimer at New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus to announce steps to combat the fentanyl epidemic.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery: 

Good morning. It’s an honor to be here with my good friend, Senator Booker — who grew up not too far from here in the Fifth District’s Harrington Park. Thank you for bringing us all together today, for your leadership on this and so many critical issues. Cory’s tireless work helped protect the Affordable Care Act, keeps our air and water clean, and cut child poverty rates. One of my proudest accomplishments in Congress was working with Cory on criminal justice reform.

Thank you to our great County Executive, Jim Tedesco, and our County leaders – Commissioners Zur, Amoroso, and Marte. Deb, Dr. Accurso, all of our doctors, nurses, and techs. You are our healthcare heroes. Thank you for your work and sacrifice to keep Jersey safe and healthy, on this critical issue and so many others. 

Last year, working closely with so many of you here, we stood together here at New Bridge to announce that we had clawed back from Washington $2 million dollars to Jersey for new federal investment in the hospital’s Behavioral Health Emergency Department Expansion Project. 

I know that’s been essential to helping our frontline health care workers battle the surging mental health crisis.

Today, as Cory discussed, we’ve come together to take on an issue we all know too well here in Jersey. Across our nation, the fentanyl epidemic continues to tear our families and communities apart. Tragically, about 300 Americans die every single day from an opioid overdose, including in communities right near here. Over the last five years, New Jersey has lost nearly 2,500 people every year to opioid related overdoses.  These are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren. Addiction knows no boundaries – it doesn’t care how rich or poor you are, your race or religion, your walk of life. 

This trend has only gotten worse, especially among our nation’s children. Like everyone, I wish there was a magic bullet to stop addiction and abuse. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t exist — there’s no turn-key solution. That’s why the bottom line is this: we all must come together — Democrats and Republicans — to do everything we can to fight and stop the disease of opioid addiction in its tracks.

In 2019, fentanyl was involved in nearly 75 percent of those drug overdoses in New Jersey — up from just four percent seven years prior. That statistic is jarring – and it speaks to what this synthetic drug is doing to our society. It’s s up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Just 2 milligrams of fentanyl, which is about 10 to15 grains of table salt, is considered a lethal dose.

It’s why so many overdoses are leading to deaths. It’s less expensive, can be manufactured in a lab, and it’s often surreptitiously cut into another drug. 

The majority of fentanyl is mass-produced in Mexico using chemicals from China. The chemicals are flown or shipped to Mexico, then cooked into fentanyl in laboratories. The finished product is transported by land, sea, air and even tunnels to safe houses in Los Angeles, Phoenix and El Paso, to be distributed across America.

If we can help stop fentanyl and other synthetics like xylazine, known as tranq, then we can help cut down overdoses and deaths, as we battle addiction on all fronts. 

Today, I’m proud to help lead legislation in the House that will do just that. It’s the bill that Cory is leading in the Senate. The Preventing Overdoses with Test Strips Act will allow federal and state governments to deploy federal grants to community organizations so they can acquire fentanyl test strips — a commonsense and proven step to saving the lives of our loved ones.

If we can give people the tools to identify this deadly poison, my hope is that we can save lives. We wouldn’t be taking these steps today without the leadership of Senator Booker.

Like everyone here today, I’m committed to tackling this epidemic ravaging our communities. Through my bipartisan Student Athlete Opioid Prevention Act, I’ve worked to deploy federal investments to educate students and young athletes and train coaches and educators on the signs – and dangers – of opioid and substance abuse, including key strategies for prevention. I also helped claw back nearly $300,000 dollars for towns like Mahwah to provide more training for first responders and counselors to combat the crisis and improve coordination with local educators and health care providers.

And I’m proud to have helped get signed into law the bipartisan Support for Patients and Communities Act — one of Congress’ most comprehensive responses to tackling the opioid epidemic. It includes investment in federal resources for prevention, education, coverage, treatment, and support for law enforcement.

And, in recent years, I’ve helped claw back millions of dollars from SAMHSA to improve New Jersey’s response to the state’s opioid epidemic and for the Fifth District’s Center for Prevention and Counseling.

We will always be stronger when we come together as a community to support those in need, like we are today. I know that our best days, here in the greatest country in the world, will always be ahead of us. 

Thank you and God Bless.

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