An epidemic of addiction to heroin and prescription painkillers among suburban teens and young adults in New Jersey will get far worse if treatment does not improve and become more readily available, experts tell a task force named by Gov. Chris Christie. Families and health-care professionals say the state has too few residential treatment programs, poor follow-up care, and inadequate insurance coverage, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. “It’s urgent, it’s an epidemic, and it is right in front of us,” said John Hulick of New Jersey’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
New Jersey’s limitations are forcing a different kind of traffic among addicts from the state–to Florida, where facilities don’t have long waiting lists. Hulick heads the 15-member task force, created to study abuse of prescription opiates such as OxyContin, antianxiety medications such as Xanax, and heroin use among those 25 and younger. Part of the problem is that treatment programs quickly fill with court-ordered addicts, sometimes leaving less than 20 percent of the resources for noncriminal users. Christie, who spent five years on the board of a treatment facility in North Jersey, is a former prosecutor. In July, he approved mandatory treatment for nonviolent offenders.