New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has staked his last year in office on tackling the state’s addiction crisis, but efforts underway show how difficult that task is, the Wall Street Journal reports. Citing long waiting lists at treatment centers, Christie wants to increase the availability of both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs. The governor wants the legislature to pass laws limiting the quantity of opioids doctors can prescribe and mandating insurance coverage for addiction treatment. Substance-abuse experts agree that expanding access to these services is critical, but they say figuring out how to get people to enter and stay in treatment is a challenge.
A Camden County program offers hospital patients who have been revived by the heroin antidote naloxone free vouchers for $15,000 of detox and intensive outpatient treatment. Of the nearly 50 patients who have been offered the vouchers since October 2015, only nine entered treatment and four of them quickly dropped out. “Nobody makes anybody get clean,” said Bob Baxter, who has worked in the substance-abuse field since 1972 and is running a five-year federal study on addiction intervention in Newark. People suffering from addiction “have to want the kind of treatment that’s being offered, and the kind of treatment that’s being offered has to be appropriate.” Baxter said many experts no longer view total elimination of substance use as the only measure of success. Reduction in frequency and amount of drug use and associated risky behaviors is in many cases seen as a victory. Christie increased funding for addiction treatment 29 perecent between his first year in office and the end of last fiscal year. He has budgeted $536 million for this fiscal year, a 23 percent increase over 2016.