Opioid Crisis

More than 300 pharmacies across the Garden State will give out free doses of naloxone to anyone who asks for it starting Thursday and running through Saturday until they run out.

The program is the latest push by Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration to combat the opioid epidemic, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact public health and the economy.

Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said the state wants to make it as easy as possible for residents to access the drug, commonly known by its brand name Narcan.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Burlington County has cut the ribbon on a new recovery center to help those struggling with substance abuse.


The center is in the county’s Human Services Building in Westampton and will serve as a one-stop shop where residents can obtain peer support, information about treatment programs, recovery support services and community resources.


As COVID-19 cases continue to soar in New Jersey, addiction treatment providers who are usually in close contact with people who use drugs have been figuring out how to continue offering services — at arm’s length.

With the state’s harm reduction centers cutting back their hours and in-person consultations becoming trickier, advocates for those with addiction worry that the coronavirus pandemic may cause other public health emergencies to worsen while nobody’s watching.

Camden County will get $190,000 to expand access to medication assisted treatment. Hudson County will spend $203,000 on new recovery efforts for young people.

In all, 12 counties across New Jersey will receive a share of nearly $1.7 million in grant funding for programs to combat the opioid crisis.

Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said the “county innovation awards” were a way for Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration to be more responsive to the specific needs of local communities.

New Jersey service providers who work with drug users say the state has come a long way in implementing “harm reduction” strategies but that more can be done.

Hundreds of public health workers gathered in Trenton on Wednesday for a harm reduction workshop organized by the Department of Health, as the state continues to battle a growing opioid crisis that contributed to a suspected 3,118 drug overdose deaths in 2018.

For one day this month, New Jersey residents will be able to walk into dozens of participating pharmacies across the state and obtain the overdose-reversing drug naloxone free of charge.

The June 18 event is the latest salvo in the ongoing fight against the opioid crisis in New Jersey, which saw more than 3,100 drug-overdose deaths in 2018.

Overdose-prevention advocates praised the move by Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration, saying the life-saving treatment for opioid overdoses needs to be more widely available.

New Jersey could become the first state in the country to require warning labels on prescription opioid medication that identifies it as an opioid and cautions against the risk of addiction.

The legislation’s sponsor hopes that the latest attempt to stem the state’s ongoing opioid crisis will save lives.

“We have to be aware of what this is. We have to be aware of what this is doing to our country. It is truly an epidemic,” said Assemblyman John Armato, D-Atlantic.

New Jersey patients can now cite their opioid addiction as a qualifying condition to get medical marijuana, state officials announced Wednesday.

The news came as a welcome change to officials and advocates trying to expand the state’s medical cannabis program and find innovative ways to battle an unrelenting opioid crisis.

At a press conference at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, Gov. Phil Murphy said marijuana can be used “both as an alternative to [prescription] opioids … but also as a weapon for folks who are trying to struggle their way out of an addiction.”

Ang Santos / WBGO

The New Jersey Attorney General's office is suing Janssen Pharmaceuticals, alleging the company deceived consumers about the dangers of its opioid painkillers.  It’s the first such case brought by the Office against a pharmaceutical company based in New Jersey.

“We allege that Janssen masterminded a public relations campaign to undermine accepted medical practices.  It used a network of sales representatives to push it’s misleading marketing.  It quietly funded front organizations that peddled it’s bogus theories,” said NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

Ang Santos / WBGO

St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson implemented a program in 2016 that researches and uses certain pain management methods, as an alternative to prescription opioids. 

“At a time where we have a national crisis, at a time where we have models some of which are here in New Jersey that we know work.  We should be funding those models and expanding those lessons learned,” New Jersey US Senator Cory Booker said. He’s calling for federal funding to create alternative pain management programs in hospital emergency departments nationwide.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's proposed state budget includes $100 million to combat the opioid epidemic.

Murphy says $56 million would be used for drug prevention, treatment, and recovery programs.

"We know that coordinated approaches that bring together treatment including access to medication assisted treatment and peer-based recovery coaching can be highly effective."

The Governor says $31 million would be used to attack social risk factors that can lead to relapse.

  New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says it’s time to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the opioid epidemic.

“Those who created the problem have to feel the consequences, change their ways and finally address the damage they have done.  The suit targets seven manufacturers and three distributors who are most responsible for creating this crisis.”

He says they deceived the public, while putting lives at risk, all for the sake of profits.

Union County Forum Examines Opioid Crisis

Dec 5, 2017
Ang Santos / WBGO

The Office of the New Jersey Medical Examiner says there were more than 2,000 drug related deaths in New Jersey last year.  A majority related to drugs like heroin and its stronger synthetic counterpart fentanyl.  Dr. Andrew Kaufman with the University Hospital Comprehensive Pain Center in Newark says the state’s northern counties have had better success dealing with overdose.