The New Jersey governor is at it again. While doing state campaigning for his home state, Chris Christie is mainly focusing on one topic with locals – substance abuse. Out of his nine public appearances, four of them have focused on addiction. His most recent appearance was on Oct. 9, when the governor discussed methods for substance abuse prevention and treatment, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
One of the places Christie shared his thoughts was at the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Trenton, where he met with many women who battled addiction. He noted that addiction needs to be handled differently than it has in the past. Christie has stated one message continually throughout his appearances – everyone deserves another chance.
Though some treatment advocates are excited about Christie’s involvement, others believe funding and action can garner change.
“Everyone is happy it’s getting attention,” said New Jersey state director of the Drug Policy Alliance Roseanne Scotti. “But how this is actually going to translate into people getting help is another question.”
Determining solutions to Substance Abuse
Recently, Christie put together a task force to combat the state’s substance abuse crisis. His task force will be led by Pastor Joe Carter of the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. Carter’s church was another place the governor held an event recently. Christie has also enlisted his cabinet, who includes law enforcement, health and corrections officials, for the task force. The force also includes an addiction treatment provider, a police officer whose son overdosed and a family physician.
Together, they will find new methods to lower the stigma around addiction and figure out ways to improve treatment and prevention efforts. Christie noted there is no deadline for these changes, believing the group just needs to find ways to help people “reclaim their lives.”
A cause for change
He also held a press conference this week encouraging the expansion of the prescription monitoring program, which lets doctors check in to see if a patient previously was prescribed a medicine or not. Christie expanded the program by adding $4.5 million to the budget.
Christie also recently put a law into place that keeps low-level offenders from being thrown in jail before a trial, since most cannot afford bail. However, more funding may be needed to help improve substance abuse treatment programs. Many people also have difficulty accessing treatment, an issue that was brought to Christie’s attention. The governor noted that substance abuse treatment should be more widely accessible.
Though Christie’s recent efforts are not surprising, they are getting a lot of attention given the rumors about the governor potentially running for president in 2016.
Getting the people’s favor
Many residents believe Christie has chosen a popular topic to focus on, and one that will go over well with New Jersey residents. The state has largely been affected by addiction this past year, with many people corralling together to fight substance abuse.
The Trust for America’s Health found that in 2013 the amount of overdose deaths, most of which are caused by opioids such as prescription drugs, has increased by 51 percent since 1999. Prescription drug abuse and overdoses are becoming one of the nation’s largest concerns, as the overdose rates are now higher than heroin and cocaine combined. Painkillers alone cost the country $53.4 billion a year in lost productivity, medical costs and criminal justice costs.