New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has made drug addiction treatment a key priority both as governor and on the presidential campaign trail, used his State of the State address to state legislators to put more state money and resources behind an initiative that advocates say is desperately needed to address the state’s opioid epidemic, reports the Associated Press. Along with plans to turn a recently closed prison into a dedicated drug treatment facility for inmates, Christie said the state will invest $100 million to raise Medicaid and state reimbursement rates for drug and mental health facilities, something that providers have long sought.
“The investment we’re making will change lives and get more people into treatment earlier, instead of the emergency room or prison later,” Christie said yesterday “It’s the fiscally responsible thing to do — and it’s the morally right thing to do.” Those who help poor drug addicts in the state say low reimbursements rates have helped contribute to long waiting lists, made it harder for those without private insurance to get into treatment, and to hire and retain skilled workers. About 40 percent of the 79,000 people in need of substance abuse treatment in New Jersey in 2014 didn’t get it, the state estimates. That percentage has increased slightly since Christie came into office, while the number of people who have entered state-financed treatment programs has decreased.