Gov. Murphy Signs Six Bills to Help Combat Opioid Epidemic

By: Helena Perray, Follow South Jersey Community Resources Intern

TRENTON, N.J. — On Friday, Governor Phil Murphy signed a six-bill legislative package into law in an effort to provide resources and support to those affected by the ongoing opioid epidemic in New Jersey.

According to the state’s year-end data, there were a total of 3,046 deaths as a result of suspected overdoses within New Jersey throughout 2020. This number only further enforced the need for statewide overdose prevention, accessible treatment, and recovery programs.

“The opioid epidemic is a national public health crisis that devastates families every day,” U.S. Congressman Frank Pallone said in a release. “We know that harm reduction is critical to saving lives and getting the help individuals who suffer from opioid use disorder need to combat this epidemic… I’m proud to join Governor Murphy today as we take another step forward in expanding access to treatments and lifesaving medications in our state.”

The legislative package contains six bills that focus on a variety of statewide concerns, including overdose prevention, treatment programs and increased access to naloxone, a medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

The six bills officially signed last week pertain to a number of different methods of preventing and treating opioid overdoses. One bill expands the authorization requirements for people to receive opioid antidotes, while another allows some paramedics to administer buprenorphine.

Thanks to another one of the bills published, the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs is now required to publicize the retail price of certain opioid antidotes, and another allows school districts to give student health surveys with prior written notice to parents and guardians.

The final two bills in the legislative package requires courts to consider the placement of children with relatives or kinship guardians when making placement decisions following a parent or guardian’s opioid overdose and requires certain health insurers and Medicaid to cover naloxone costs.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioids are often used to relieve pain from severe injuries or medical procedures. However, they can become addictive when frequently misused due to the dopamine spike that occurs within the body – a spike that is associated with a “high” feeling.

When used improperly, opioids can cause severe long-term effects on the body, including brain damage, comas, and deaths.

“In 2020 alone, New Jersey had thousands of suspected opioid overdose deaths,” Senator Joseph Lagana said in a release. “It is evident that when we increase the availability of opioid antidotes, we can equip ourselves with the resources needed to greatly diminish the amount of deaths we have each year. Additionally, having the prices of these antidotes readily available will encourage those suffering from addiction to seek out antidotes that can be life-saving in dire times. I commend the Governor for signing this bill package today and I know we will save more lives because of it.”

These bills are a part of Gov. Murphy’s continued effort to support the state’s affected families by reevaluating placement decisions for children who are unable to be cared for by their legal guardians, expanding the number of individuals permitted to deliver opioid antidotes, and providing adequate resources for recovery to those in need.

“Over the last three years, my Administration, alongside our partners in the Legislature and many passionate advocates, has worked to meaningfully combat the opioid crisis that has held our state in its grip for far too long,” Gov. Murphy said in a release. “We have worked tirelessly to erase the stigma associated with opioid use disorder and people who use drugs, close gaps in treatment, expand access and use of life-saving medicines like naloxone, and support the work of syringe exchange programs and harm reduction centers… By signing these bills today, we are strengthening the foundation of these critical resources and programs, keeping families together, and furthering our commitment to saving lives and ending the opioid epidemic in New Jersey.”

This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.