Christie: Private Sector, Counties Should Help Expand Drug Treatment


To combat New Jersey's growing heroin and opioid crisis, Gov. Chris Christie says the state needs to take a dramatically different approach to substance abuse, reports NJ Advance Media. He cautioned that he will not write a blank check to get it there. Heroin and opioid abuse claimed at least 740 lives in New Jersey last year, while tens of thousands of others sought treatment, many of their lives broken by addiction. Christie wants a system that values treatment over incarceration. The War on Drugs has failed, he says, and it's time to move on. “I think what we've seen over the last 30 years is it just hasn't worked,” he said. “And there are some people who make one bad choice to try drugs one time and their particular chemistry leads them to be an addict from the minute they try it. So we need to treat it as a disease. And not having mandatory incarceration for non-violent offenders but having mandatory treatment is something that's going to yield a much greater result for society in general and for those individuals in particular.”

In 2010, the state estimated 37 percent of people seeking substance abuse treatment in New Jersey didn't receive it. Since then, the number of heroin-related deaths has increased by 160 percent, while the number of people in treatment for heroin or opioids has only increased by 15 percent. Christie says New Jersey is falling short. There aren't enough available residential treatment beds for adults battling substance abuse. Getting into what does exist can be a confounding maze of dead-ends and frustrating questions. If you do find a bed, odds are your insurance carrier won't pay. Christie says the state needs to step up to fix this, but just as importantly, the private sector does as well. “I don't want to build a bunch of new state facilities. I don't think that's the right thing to do from a fiscal perspective or for the long-term treatment of these folks,” he said. “We've got to be able to have local government agencies, the counties in particular do a better job…to say, 'here's where you go, here's the options for detox that are available, here is non-residential that's available, here's residential that's available,' and help them connect those dots.”

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