The number of opioid overdose deaths in New Jersey is increasing. The New Jersey Reentry Corporation has a blueprint to change that.
Researchers say overdose deaths in the Garden State rose nearly 30 percent last year and project 3,000 deaths this year.
Former Governor Jim McGreevey is chairman of the Reentry Corporation. He says the challenge for many families is the lack of a coordinated addiction treatment system in the state.
“In many cases where they go for treatment, what they access, it’s accidental, it’s coincidence, or it’s chaos. And we need to remove that arbitrariness and to establish clear best practices.”
Gloucester County resident Kathleen Foster says her 27-year-old son relapsed after being in three short-term residential facilities for his heroin addiction and died while waiting for a bed to get into long-term treatment. She says it’s difficult for parents to watch their loved ones with opioid addictions struggle.
“Their brains are hijacked and they need years to repair the damage. That’s why we must extend the length of addiction treatment in New Jersey. And this is why a continuum of care is crucial. Because we can no longer afford to lose another person to this plague.”
National drug abuse experts joined McGreevey in calling for the state to implement an integrated treatment system, that’s worked in some other states, to guide patients through the treatment and recovery process and monitor how they’re doing.
Dr. David Gastfriend is the lead researcher for the American Society of Addiction Medicine. He says New Jersey needs a coordinated system to change the opioid epidemic.
“This thing is costing New Jersey $2 billion when you add up lost productivity, the health care expenditures, the addiction care expenditures, the criminal justice expenditures. So, the money is there. We’re just wasting it.”