During the last few years, New Jersey has been plagued with the twin afflictions of increased heroin and prescription drug abuse. State Senator Joe Vitale (D-Woodbridge) has spent more than 12 months working to address this problem, which he terms an “epidemic”. His work culminated in a 21-bill package that he and other government leaders hope will help to reverse this disturbing trend.
Vitale introduced the bills this past September. He was joined by a group of both Democratic and Republican lawmakers from the state Senate and Assembly. The laws do not institute criminal sanctions for substance abusers. Instead, they take a proactive approach by focusing on education, prevention, and treatment rather than punishment.
Education includes school-age children with a bill that calls for a review of substance abuse curriculum. There is also legislation to inform patients receiving prescription medication regarding potential risks of addiction. In a related issue, lawmakers are seeking to expand and strengthen the state’s prescription monitoring program. Doctors would be required to register with the program and cross-reference its database when prescribing potentially addictive substances.
Several of the bills aim to make it easier for lower-income and disadvantaged individuals to receive treatment. One bill would assist Medicaid recipients by increasing the reimbursement rate for behavioral health care services so doctors will be more receptive to treating such patients. Other legislation deals with providing assistance with filing insurance claims as well as measures for prisoners dealing with substance abuse.
Vitale was moved to action by the growing number of stories about deaths from drug overdoses. He emphasized that the problem is not limited to New Jersey’s urban areas but crosses all geographic and socioeconomic boundaries.
Are you one of the individuals in New Jersey struggling with an addiction to heroin, prescription drugs or other substances? Focus on your health and successful recovery at Transitions Recovery in Miami. A caring staff member is on hand to answer your questions at 800-298-1783.