NJ’s Heroin, Opioid Problem Targeted with HOPE Initiative
New Jersey lawmakers are hoping the state's heroin and opioid addiction epidemic will settle down if the right tools are at work.
An Assembly panel recently gave the green light to a bill that requires the establishment of a massive public awareness campaign to attack a problem that has strangled the New Jersey population over the last decade.
Under the measure, the New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services would establish and oversee the Heroin and Opioid Drug Public Education (HOPE) Initiative, which would include the public dissemination of individual case stories designed to show "the new face" of addiction in New Jersey, and rebut commonly-accepted stereotypes.
"Not one one group or area can lay claim to having been hit the hardest by this kind of addiction," said Democratic Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, a sponsor of the measure, in a press release on the bill. "Many families in New Jersey have been affected by addiction of this kind. It's time to encourage individuals and families to seek the help they desperately need to live drug-free."
According to Angelo Valente, executive director of Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, addiction is not haunting only the inner cities and back alleys, but suburban neighborhoods and shore communities as well.
"If you look at the statistics and you also speak to individuals who are addicted to heroin, you'll see that in many cases - I would say in most cases - addiction started with prescription drug usage," Valente said.
Video from Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey:
Admissions to treatment programs for prescription drug abuse in New Jersey have seen an increase of more than 200 percent over the past five years or so, and 700 percent over the last decade, according to the bill's press release.
The HOPE Initiative would also educate the public on the effects and warning signs of abusive usage so that family and friends of potential addicts can intervene before it's too late.
A separate measure, also introduced this winter, would require that health care professionals discuss the potential dangers of prescription medications prior to prescribing such drugs to a patient who is younger than 18.