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Ex-governor wants to reform state’s opioid treatment system

September 25, 2018

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey on Tuesday called on the state to overhaul how it deals with opioid addiction treatment.

McGreevey, a former Democratic governor who resigned from office in 2004, chairs the Jersey City-based New Jersey Reentry Corporation. He has been a prominent figure in the state urging the public sector to address the overdose crisis, which is on pace claim 3,000 lives this year.

The organization unveiled a 35-page report Tuesday at the statehouse alongside medical doctors, mothers of victims and a prominent state lawmaker.

“For families facing the death of a young son or daughter there’s nothing more tragic, futile or frustrating than the manner in which many families discern what is the appropriate level of care for their loved one,” McGreevey said.

Its proposals include lengthening the period in which insurance covers treatment, from 28 days to up to a year.

McGreevey and others also called for improving the state’s so-called continuity of care for addiction treatment so that when a patient is released from residential care he or she has a network available to prevent a relapse.

The report also calls for setting up health information exchanges, which would serve as a kind of clearing house for a patient’s information, including from doctors, counselors and other health care practitioners.

It’s unclear what costs would come with such changes, but the report estimates that about $1.2 billion a year is lost in productivity because of the epidemic. It also estimates that $145 million is spent annually on incarceration of drug addicts, plus $635 million a year on inpatient emergency visits.

The report found that the rate of overdose deaths is New Jersey is outpacing the national figure.

The report cites Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures showing overdose deaths in the state from January 2017 to January 2018 climbed 21.1 percent but only 6.6 percent nationally.

New Jersey data show 2,221 overdose deaths in 2016, up 42 percent from 2015.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Tuesday that the state had 2,750 overdose deaths in 2017, up 24 percent over the previous year.

Democratic state Sen. Joe Vitale said the report would likely form the basis of legislation lawmakers expect to introduce to address the crisis.

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