Menendez Holds Strategy Session on NJ, National Opioid Epidemic

Menendez Holds Strategy Session on NJ, National Opioid Epidemic

PATERSON, NJ – With heroin-related deaths increasing by 286% since 2002 according to the CDC, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) today met with law enforcement, healthcare and rehabilitation experts to discuss ways to address the opioid epidemic. They talked about drug treatment options and programs, access to medications and if there are ways the federal government can help.

“New Jersey’s overdose fatality rate is more than triple the national average and we must take deliberative actions to combat this problem,” said Sen. Menendez. “The thoughtful conversation today will help us coordinate strategies and work together to provide the tools needed to help those struggling with addiction. I am cautiously optimistic we can find common ground politically to help with this exploding local and national tragedy.”

Menendez is a cosponsor of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act to help address prescription opioid drug abuse and heroin use by creating a new interagency task force, expanding prevention and educational efforts through a national drug abuse awareness campaign, strengthening prescription drug monitoring programs and expanding naloxone availability to law enforcement agencies and first responders. He is also a longtime supporter of the Drug Free Communities Program, which provides matching grants to community-based organizations to prevent youth substance abuse, and he has repeatedly urged appropriators to fund this critical program.

Menendez’s strategy session was held at Eva’s Village, which has an addiction treatment program, and was joined by law enforcement officials from Bergen, Passaic and Ocean Counties and representatives from the following organizations: New Jersey Prevention Network, Drug Free NJ, Summit Behavioral Health, Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Project H.O.P.E., Preferred Behavioral Health, Drug Policy Alliance, South Jersey AIDS Alliance, John Brooks Recovery Center and Prevention Links.

“September is National Recovery Month, when we celebrate individuals in recovery and spread the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works and treatment is effective; people can and do recover,” said Mike Santillo, Administrative Director Clinical Services at Eva’s Village.” We especially appreciate Senator Menendez taking the time out of his busy schedule to meet with treatment providers from throughout the state to address the complex problems related to alcohol and drug addiction and to identify solutions that will benefits our clients.”

“We have seen the devastation that New Jersey’s opioid abuse epidemic is having on individuals, families, and communities throughout our state,” said Angela Conover, Director of Media and Community Relations at Drug Free NJ. “We must continue to work together to find new and better ways to prevent and treat opiate addiction. Conversations like today's roundtable are a critical part of developing a response to this epidemic that will enable us to develop solutions to prevent opiate abuse, stem the tide of this epidemic, and help those receiving treatment live longer, healthier lives. I applaud Senator Menendez for his leadership in calling together New Jersey’s stakeholders for this lifesaving conversation.”

“It should not be easier to access opiates like heroin than it is to access effective, evidence-based opioid dependence treatment – but, sadly, this is our current situation,” said Lynda Bascelli, Chief Medical Officer at Project H.O.P.E. “I am grateful for the opportunity to speak with the Senator and others about what we can do to change this.”

“With over 1,200 NJ overdose deaths in 2014, opiate use is a public health crisis that needs to be addressed,” said Diane Litterer, CEO & Executive Director of the New Jersey Prevention Network. “New Jersey is lucky to have networks of community coalitions and prevention experts that are implementing evidence based prevention and early intervention that are showing positive results in reducing youth drug use rates. We have to keep expanding these effective prevention strategies, increase treatment and support those in recovery to save lives and reduce the burden of addiction.”