Christie said he believes the national “war on drugs has been a failure, a well-intentioned failure, but a failure nonetheless,” adding that there has been too much emphasis on increased penalties and not enough on treatment.
“If we’re spending $500 per second to defeat drug addiction in our society, it seems like we’re spending it on the wrong things,” said Christie, adding: “Politicians in Washington and in state capitals say, ‘Well, if we just make the penalties harsher, that’ll teach ’em.’ That misunderstands this problem, doesn’t it? My friend was not stupid, he was incredibly smart.”
He also said that his friend had brushes with the legal system due to car crashes, but “the legal system never intervened to try to save him from himself.”
Christie criticized the tendency of some officials and residents to distance themselves from overdose deaths, noting that prescriptions deaths are increasing rapidly and now lead to more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.
“We need to make these policies more personal,” Christie said, adding that training for administering naloxone (also known by the trade name Narcan) is being expanded.
Christie did not restrict his comments to drug ODs and related topics.
In response to questions about whether he supports efforts to reduce medical school debt, Christie said additional funding would be impossible without addressing growing state employee pension and retiree health benefits. He said next year would be the first time that the state will spend more on retired public workers than on active workers.
Christie also defended his decision to expand Medicaid, while vetoing bills that would have made the expansion permanent.
He offered his response to “conservative Republicans who yell and scream at me about expanding Medicaid."
“ ‘I say, my job is to be governor of New Jersey, and this is going to be a $220 million-per-budget-year winner for us, when the federal government is paying 100 percent of costs.’"
“And they say, ‘Well, governor, aren’t you concerned about the federal budget?’"
“And I say, ‘No, that’s not what I’m hired to do at the moment,’” Christie said to laughter and applause from the doctors.
Christie also said he was reluctant to support enhanced scope of practice for advanced practice nurses and other healthcare professionals. There are several proposals that would allow these groups to expand their practices with less control from doctors. Christie said he has a “pretty firm feeling rooted in my experience” as an attorney who spent the first seven years of his legal career defending doctors.
“I believe there are other ways we can find efficiencies in the way we administer healthcare to folks and I’m much more of a traditionalist in that regard,” Christie said, adding that he gets “a lot of argument in my policy shop about this,” and he will “never say never” on the issue.
He also disabused the audience that medical liability reform is imminent. He said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset and Union) has described himself as an “ambulance chaser” and that the issue would never get past Scutari’s committee.
While saying the tort system is in need of reform, Christie added that to tell the audience that there was a serious chance of a change would be “bullshit.”