By Erin Delmore
“We know we need to increase treatment beds,” said Gov. Chris Christie.
A move by Christie to expand recovery opportunities for addicts, the first of its kind in 20 years.
“We’re asking for another 864 beds to be used to treat those not only with substance abuse treatment, but those co-diagnosed with behavioral health, mental health problems and substance abuse treatment, which we know, when we talked about it upstairs, are so often paired together,” Christie said.
Christie’s proposal nearly doubles the number of beds available to adults recovering from addiction and other issues. It’s the latest in a slew of efforts from Trenton to counter New Jersey’s growing opioid addiction crisis, which Christie says claimed 1,600 lives due to opioid overdoses in 2015 alone — four times the number of residents murdered, three times the number killed in car accidents.
“The hospital association says that emergency room visits, in our hospitals, increased by more than 117,000 patients from 2014 to 2015 and that nearly 54,000 of those cases — so almost half of them — wound up being substance abuse disorder diagnosis,” Christie said.
Coupled with the 40 percent increase over the number of beds currently available in the state, incentives to providers for submitting their applications. Christie said the Department of Health is looking to prioritize Warren, Salem, Ocean and Cape May counties — where need outpaces the number of beds available. He said in some cases, there are none at all. Five percent of the new beds will go to uninsured patients and those on Medicaid.
“I receive calls, very often, from individuals and families who, although they have commercial insurance, they have no place to go. There are long waits for beds and services,” said Debra Wentz, president and CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies.
“You can give me 10,000 beds today. If all I can keep them for is 30 days… You need a minimum of 90 days, almost a guarantee of six months in order to even have a dent in helping change someone’s life and getting them into long-term recovery,” said John Brogan, the chief recovery specialist at the Malvern Institute.
Christie cited 20 years working on addiction treatment alongside his wife, Mary Pat — the last two on the campaign trail, repeating a rallying cry he hoped would take him to the White House. Now Christie’s lobbying New Jersey’s congressional delegation to push for expanded drug treatment options under President Trump. Back in Trenton, imposing a two-year time limit to ready nearly 900 new recovery beds — a deadline that exceeds the remainder of his time in office.