NJ’s Financial Crisis May Limit Progress by Chris Christie in Ending Addiction
In his January 10, 2017 state of the state address, NJ Governor Chris Christie promised to make fighting drug addiction the focus of his last year in office.
Christie called for investments in programs specifically for young adults and college housing programs set up for students in recovery.
The Governor also urged bipartisan cooperation in crafting legislation that would mandate health insurance coverage for the first six months of in-patient or outpatient drug rehabilitation treatment.
A January 11, 2017 NJ Spotlight article mentioned Chris Christie’s commitment to supporting addiction services in its article, “Democrats say Christie sidestepped problems in final state of state.” But the article puts his commitment to addressing addiction issues in context of other big issues and problems facing the state.
Star-Ledger columnist Tom Moran reports on the address, “I know this is a very different State of the State address,” the governor said. “But when our children are dying in the street, New Jersey should be offended if I came up here and gave a typical political speech.”
Writes Moran, “He’s right about that. In New Jersey, 1,600 addicts died of overdoses in 2015 – four times the number who were murdered, and three times the number who died in car crashes.”
He has lifted reimbursement rates for drug treatment under Medicaid, and expanded the use of drug courts that divert convicts to treatment instead of prison.
He wants to establish more separate dorms for recovering addicts, an idea Rutgers helped pioneered long ago.
On Tuesday, he asked the Legislature to put a bill on his desk within 30 days that would force insurers to provide immediate coverage for addicts seeking help, for up to six months … He would limit prescriptions for pain medications to five days, initially, followed by a consultation.”
Christie has worked closely with Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex) on finding solutions to addiction issues, “Will those steps solve the problem? No. Vitale points out, for example, that most private insurance plans are not regulated by the state, so can’t be forced to provide easier access to treatment. And New Jersey’s fiscal crisis limits the state’s ambitions on all fronts.”
NJ Spotlight reported, “Christie’s decision to focus almost entirely on the issue of addiction yesterday reflected a “no harm, no foul” strategy, said Patrick Murray, director of Monmouth University’s Polling Institute. For New Jersey residents, Murray said property taxes remain the biggest concern.
“Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) said other issues, like poverty, need to be talked about and could be included in the conversations on addiction services that Christie said he now wants to have with lawmakers.”
“Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) also pointed to a challenge Christie issued to lawmakers yesterday to approve changes to addiction-coverage policies within 30 days as a sign that more could be accomplished on other issues once that work is completed.”