Source: North Jersey.com
Lawmakers have been hearing expert testimony Thursday in Trenton on how the growing number of residents fighting addictions to heroin and opioid prescription painkillers is impacting the state.
Doctors, treatment specialists and other experts have been appearing before the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee for the last several hours, telling stories about treatment resources that are being stretched thin by a growing demand for services.
The panel is also scheduled to vote Thursday afternoon on two bills related to the addiction issue.
Committee Chair Herb Conaway, D-Burlington, said when he gets calls at home from constituents looking for help, their top concern has been addiction.
“These situations are desperate for families,” said Conaway, who is also a doctor. “It is my view that treatment is the key to this problem.”
Nationally, the rates of heroin addiction and overdose deaths are on the rise in recent years, a surge experts believe is tied to the broad availability of prescription painkillers.
And in New Jersey, an estimated 800 people died from prescription painkiller or heroin overdoses in 2012, according to the State Medical Examiner’s Office, marking a steady and dramatic increase over several years.
This year, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office has reported 24 fatal heroin overdoses through the first seven months of the year.
Governor Christie has also been emphasizing addiction services in recent weeks, including expanding a prescription drug monitoring program earlier this month and last week announcing increased funding for a program that helps keep mothers with their children while receiving treatment for addiction.