Menendez, Booker Announce $1.2M COPS Grant to Battle NJ’s Heroin, Prescription Opioid Crisis

Menendez, Booker Announce $1.2M COPS Grant to Battle NJ’s Heroin, Prescription Opioid Crisis

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker today announced that the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety has been awarded $1,279,255 in federal funding from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Anti-Heroin Task Force (AHTF) Program to advance efforts to combat the Garden State’s heroin and prescription opioid abuse epidemic.

“Tackling New Jersey’s heroin and prescription opioid abuse crisis will take a holistic approach involving families, the medical community, addiction treatment providers, as well as law enforcement,” said Sen. Menendez.  “I will continue to fight for critical funding for all stakeholders to help loosen heroin and prescription opioid’s grip on our communities.  Too many lives have been lost and too many families ripped apart by heroin addiction and opioid abuse, and this funding will help enhance police efforts to stem the tide.”

"Opioid addiction has taken a devastating toll on our nation and continues to tear individuals, families and communities apart across New Jersey,” said Sen. Booker.  “The key to finding long-term solutions to this crisis is supporting partnerships between public health and public safety agencies through federal investments like this.  I stand committed to fighting for federal resources that support law enforcement efforts, bolster substance abuse and mental health treatment funding, and promote public awareness and education on the issue so that, together, we can tackle this crisis head on.”

The AHTF program is designed to advance public safety by providing funds to investigate illicit activities related to the distribution of heroin or unlawful distribution of prescriptive opioids, or unlawful heroin and prescription opioid traffickers through statewide collaboration.

New Jersey’s senators have long pushed for funding of this vital program and, in June, led a delegation letter in support of the New Jersey State Police Drug Monitoring Program’s request for federal funding to create the New Jersey State Police’s Anti-Heroin Task Force. 

Heroin deaths in New Jersey are up 160 percent since 2010, with more than 1,200 overdose-related deaths last year alone.  In 2015, more than 28,000 New Jerseyans sought treatment for heroin or opioid abuse, significantly outpacing previous year’s figures.  The heroin death rate in five counties – Camden, Ocean, Cape May, Union, and Middlesex – significantly exceeds the number of treatment beds available per 100,000 people.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, and heroin-related deaths more than tripled from 2010-2014 with approximately three out of four new heroin users report first abusing prescription opioids.  Veterans are twice as likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose as non-veterans, according to a 2011 study of the VA system.

Last month, the senators hosted a forum with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to raise awareness and advance policies to tackle the ongoing heroin and opioid addiction crisis plaguing New Jersey and the nation.  The discussion largely focused on improving the prescribing practices of doctors to reduce the supply of misused opioids while still treating pain safely and effectively.  An important driver of the opioid epidemic is legally written prescriptions from doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Sens. Menendez and Booker cosponsored the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which was signed into law in July, and continue to fight for full funding.  Among its provisions, the legislation provides resources to states to expand disposal sites for unwanted prescription drugs and to develop better monitoring systems for prescription drug use, makes naloxone more widely available to law enforcement agencies and other first responders to help prevent overdoses and save lives, creates an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and intervention program, and sets national treatment standards.

In August, Sens. Menendez and Booker joined a bipartisan group of 29 senators urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to improve access to substance abuse treatment in response to America’s worsening opioid addiction crisis by expanding covered services to include substance abuse treatment in all medically necessary care settings.

Sen. Menendez pressed U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell during a Senate Finance Committee hearing in February to expand access to medication assisted treatment options, which led HHS a month later to move to double the current patient limit for qualified physicians who prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorders.

In March, the Senators convened a statewide summit to explore solutions to the heroin and opioid addiction epidemic gripping New Jersey and the nation.  A month later, they partnered with local law enforcement to promote National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day and encourage New Jerseyans to discard all unwanted narcotic pain killers and other prescription drugs at participating local police stations and county prosecutor’s offices.  Menendez held another strategy session last fall to discuss drug treatment options and programs, access to medications, and explore ways the federal government can help.