It’s a distinction that no state wants and a number that no administration should have to contemplate. The sobering figures recently released from New Jersey Medical Examiner’s Office are a cutting indicator that the garden state has gone backward in its battle to curb drug abuse and addiction within its borders. According to said figures, New Jersey saw 1,587 overdose deaths in 2015, a staggering 21 percent increase from the prior year. The increase corresponded with an increase in heroin-related deaths, which reached 918, the highest rate in the recorded history of the state. Experts suggest that the sharp rise in fentanyl-related deaths are also driving the collective uptick.
Since 2004, heroin has claimed more than 6,000 New Jersey residents, and since you can leave New Jersey and be on Long Island in an hour, depending upon where you are, what happens in New Jersey is very much Long Island’s problem. During his last State of the State Address, Governor Christie devoted nearly two hours to bemoaning the garden state’s escalating overdose problem and vowing to be a champion for solutions and reform during the final year of his term. At the same time, Governor Cuomo has already pledged considerable funds toward increasing treatment and prevention resources in New York. Two states so heavily plagued with the same problem should undoubtedly work together in solving it.
As the death toll continues to increase, the impact on families and communities continues to intensify. Although it seems like it’s the most uphill of battles, combatting this problem requires the work of senators and citizens alike. Whether you have a friend or loved one who needs help for drug and alcohol abuse, or you’re in a position to develop and implement sensible prevention policy, your efforts are needed and you can make a difference. It’s officially all hands on deck and everybody’s problem.