“The fight against opioid abuse and addiction is larger than any one individual, one family or one community and the fight cannot be won by going it alone. It is going to take a unified front that includes law enforcement, government, faith based organizations, families, friends and neighbors.” – Brick Township Mayor John Ducey.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
In March Trump called for death penalties for drug dealers as the focus of his opioids plan. His policy rollout doesn’t propose new legislation to combat the crisis. It has the goal of reducing the supply of illicit drugs with better interdiction and tougher penalties, reducing opioid prescriptions and overall demand for opioids, and expanding access to treatment and recovery tools like the overdose-reversing drug naloxone (Narcan). Better interdiction, a supply problem, has been tried for years, harsh punishment seldom decreases crime, and the lack of new initiatives on the demand side suggest an inadequate plan. Trump appears to be paying scant attention to the problem.
Gov. Murphy during his campaign said he would remove the the stigma that surrounds addiction and tackle our opioid epidemic by:
- Expanding access to drug treatment facilities,
- Increasing access to preventive medical treatment,
- Establishing a 7-day limit on initial opiate prescriptions,
- Lowering the cost of Narcan,
- Funding a public awareness campaign about opioid addiction prevention,
- and expanding support systems for individuals who overdose.
Last month he detailed plans for a $100 million opioid fight. He intends to spend $100 million on what he called a strategic and data-driven effort to address an increasingly deadly opioid crisis. Most of that money – $87 million – will be directed to expanding treatment access and maintaining existing programs, such as linking overdose victims with recovering addicts and providing housing and workforce training to families and individuals. $56 million goes to outpatient programs and recovery coaches, $31 million to supportive housing for those in recovery and job training, and $13 million to improve data collection surrounding the disease.
As with other matters our progressive governor is moving rapidly to fulfill his promises. In general he has been proposing smallish down payments on the long-term more expensive programs. He faces severe budget limitations and opposition from the Legislature on some matters. Nonetheless, so far he is sticking to his principles. In the meantime the legislature has a pending bill that requires prescription opioid medications include warning sticker advising patients of risk of addiction and overdose.
Ras Baraka during his 2014 successful mayoral campaign said, “I think drugs should be decriminalized, period.” At that time Newark was wracked by escalating chaos. Mayor Cory Booker had essentially abandoned governing the place, opting instead to continue his nationwide speaking tour and prepare for an ultimately successful US Senate campaign. Alas, despite Baraka’s many positive efforts, decriminalization (nor legalization) is not now on the front burner
In October Baraka issued a lawsuit against several opioid manufacturers, alleging the companies downplayed the risk of opioid addiction and overstated the drugs’ long-term benefits with deceptive advertising practices. One of the companies is the maker of OxyContin. “While opioids have been diverted through illicit prescribing and sales, it is the regular, legitimate prescribing of opioids that created and fueled this crisis,” the lawsuit contends.
Because drug policies and laws, or lack thereof, are most influenced at the national and state level, there is less that mayors and municipalities can do. There have been positive, but limited, actions in Rosselle, Union City, Franklin Lakes, Hamilton Township, and other locations.
LOCAL COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS
In the next part IV of this series there will be an article on how a local social/medical community organization, not specifically drug oriented, provides such critical services. Local organizations with their roots in the community have an opportunity to expand their offerings to meet the needs of those affected by heroin and legal and illegal opioids.
Preview image above via Anna Vignet, for NJ Advance Media