Op-Ed: Murphy’s Plan for Tackling NJ’s Opioid Crisis Builds on Christie’s Work

Funds are being allocated for evidenced-based practices and treatment regimens that have been proven to help promote long-term sobriety

Robert J. Budsock and Christine Baker
As leaders in the treatment and recovery space, we are deeply thankful for former Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts to raise the issue of opioid addiction to significant public prominence. Christie made several comprehensive changes to combat the state’s public health crisis during his time as governor and truly helped to change the conversation surrounding the stigma associated with opioid use disorder.

The work, however, is far from done. That’s why we applaud Gov. Phil Murphy’s $100 million commitment to continuing the fight against opioid addiction in New Jersey.

With numbers showing that an estimated 3,000 New Jersey residents would die from a drug overdose in 2018, there is no denying that continuing the fight against opioid addiction in the state must remain a priority at the highest levels of government. Thus, we are especially gratified that Murphy has followed through by creating a plan that directs funds toward evidenced-based practices and treatment regimens that are proven to help promote long-term sobriety.

Much-needed resources for outpatient programs

Murphy’s plan includes much-needed resources for outpatient programs and recovery coaches, as well as the clinically-proven and effective medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Recognizing the dangerous path that prescription opioid painkillers can lead to, Murphy has proposed a strategy to reduce the number of prescriptions given out to begin with and is focusing on alternative pain-management techniques.

The governor’s plan also allocates resources for supportive housing for individuals in recovery as well as job training — both essential, long-term pillars for lasting recovery from a lifelong disease. Maintaining a job gives an individual purpose in life and helps them to feel productive as a member of our society. Idle time is extremely dangerous, and a meaningful job or line of study is necessary to rebuild financial security and bring a new sense of accomplishment to an individual’s life. Ensuring a living environment that is healthy and stable has also been proven to keep individuals accountable for their actions and allow for sustained recovery.

Additionally, perhaps most notably, the plan outlines resources and the need for an improved data-collection process surrounding the disease of opioid addiction. The importance of translating scientific-based interventions into practical use for treating substance use disorder has long been understood within the treatment community. Having an administration that understands this benefit is especially valuable. Using data and real-time analytics to track both the rate of visits to the emergency room for overdoses and number of people in recovery and treatment centers will better inform the administration’s decision process moving forward. Identifying key metrics and using that information to create plans of action will allow those of us on the front lines of this epidemic to refocus our efforts where resources are truly needed and to where they are most effective.

Decisions on how to address the opioid crisis and the model of care we follow need to be based on the most successful and appropriate treatment options for the affected individuals. We are optimistic that Murphy’s plan demonstrates that he understands the complexities of addiction and the necessity of taking an evidence-based approach to effective treatment that leads to long-term recovery.