As NJ Faces Modern Plague of Opioid Addiction, Housing Instability Poses Obstacle for Justice-Involved Population
The New Jersey Reentry Corporation has issued a new report, “Reentry: New Jersey Opioid Addiction Report: A Modern Plague.”
The New Jersey opioid addiction epidemic is now projected to tragically claim 3,000 lives this year. Since 2014,10,000 fellow state residents will have died due to the heroin/fentanyl crisis.
The high correlation between addiction and incarceration, upwards of 80 percent of the NJ Reentry Corporation’s clients are clinically addicted, has significantly increased the challenge of reentry for its clients.
This report examined those treatment “best practices” from throughout the nation and recommended a specific addiction treatment infrastructure and clinical protocol, which would begin to address our New Jersey opioid plague.
Many individuals experiencing homelessness or at risk of being homeless have mental illness along with having an opioid addiction.
According to the report, “A recent SAMHSA study reported that 40 percent of adults with a substance use disorder also had a co-occurring mental illness, a correlation confirmed by numerous other studies. Co- occurring physical illnesses are also found at significantly higher rates in the addicted population, as individuals with a substance use disorder exhibit a range of diseases,36 from obesity and diabetes to hepatitis C and other infectious diseases (largely through injection transmission), at much higher rates than in the general population.”
The lack of opioid addiction treatment in prison has a grave effect of the risk of formerly incarcerated individuals suffering relapse upon release.
“Coupled with the social obstacles – such as food insecurity, housing instability, legal challenges, poverty, and unemployment – faced by the justice-involved population, reentry clients with opioid use disorder represent some of the most socially and medically complex patients in our communities. Their stories bring the full scale, scope, and malice of the opioid epidemic in New Jersey into stark relief.”
Supportive housing can provide the stability that formerly incarcerated individuals in recovery from substance abuse need to succeed in their recovery. According to the report, “In order to effectively recover and maintain long-term sobriety, best practices indicate that addicted individuals need a robust support structure and comprehensive wrap- around services.”
The report’s recommended program proposal for a new statewide standard of care and an integrated addiction treatment program includes post treatment continuity of care and referrals and communication with service providers including housing.