Gov. Phil Murphy reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to end the opioid epidemic through a comprehensive, data-driven collaboration across several state departments as the state reports 3,046 suspected overdose deaths in 2020.
The approach includes increasing access to evidence-based prevention and treatment programs in communities, supporting individuals on their path to and maintenance of recovery, supporting data-driven work and strengthening system-wide infrastructure, and using robust law enforcement to stem the supply of illicit drugs.
Murphy acknowledged that the 2020 year-end data, closely comparable to 3,021 suspected overdose deaths in 2019, was during a year impacted by the challenges and complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a virtual conference of Facebook this morning, Murphy commented, “Frankly, given the headwinds of COVID 19, [these numbers] at one level, could have been a lot worse, but lets not forget that those numbers translated into eight losses of life, on average, every single day.”
For January and February of this year, 540 lives have already been lost to suspected overdoses. It is 100 more than the same period in 2019. These numbers reveal the continued need for vigilance, according to the governor.
Murphy approached the Legislature to move a bill package on overdose prevention and recovery resilience and pledged his commitment to working alongside Senator Joseph Vitale and Assemblyman Herb Conaway and key advocates.
Among the legislation, one proposal aims to expand low-barrier access to naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug, by codifying widespread authorization for obtaining, administering, and distributing naloxone for emergency medical service (EMS) professionals and others. Increasing access to naloxone for individuals most ready to respond to an overdose emergency, including peers and other laypersons, is a key harm reduction intervention that will save lives.
Governor Murphy’s Fiscal Year 2022 (FY2022) budget continues the Administration’s commitment to support opioid-related programs, including opioid use disorder treatment, drug diversion, harm-reduction services, and social supports. The proposed FY2022 budget increases funding to several key initiatives including $6.8 million to end the prohibition on income assistance for those with drug convictions, $1 million to expand harm-reduction services across the state, $1 million to expand Overdose Fatality Review Teams, and $1.3 million to implement a single license for integrated primary and substance use disorder treatment.
“Despite the complexities and burden of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey averted a dramatic increase in annual suspected drug-related deaths,” Murphy continued. “We are confident this is due to the strong foundation our administration has built over the last several years. The unpredictability of the opioid crisis requires us to continue our pursuit of smart and compassionate policies focused on evidence-based solutions. We will not give up the fight against the opioid epidemic and we will not give up on the New Jerseyans who need us most.”
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