OCEAN COUNTY, NJ — The opioid crisis continues to plague residents of Ocean County as federal legislators seek to become part of the solution.
Congressman Andy Kim (NJ-03) announced last week his efforts to push two separate bills designed to combat the ongoing battle that opioids present in Ocean and Burlington counties, and throughout the country.
“I’ve heard from so many families across New Jersey who have seen opioid addiction hit their families hard. They’re stories I carry with me every day and ones that have driven me to lead on these two important pieces of legislation,” said Congressman Kim. “These bills represent a path forward to helping those on the frontlines better fight this battle and those suffering with opioid addiction get help. I’m proud to see the progress and will keep fighting until these are passed into law.”
Kim sponsored the Synthetic Opioid Danger Awareness Act, which was introduced with Congressman Chris Pappas (NH-01) in Congress on January 16, 2020. It represents one of two bills heard by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the subject last week.
According to the H.R.5633 bill summary, the proposed legislation puts the onus on federal agencies as far as education and training related to synthetic opioids. This includes mandating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch a public education campaign to the public. Other federal agencies would be charged with developing training programs for first responders on the subject.
A number of organizations representing frontline responders support the bill and recognize the value in educating those who encounter opioid addiction and overdoses on a daily basis. These include the National Council for Behavioral Health, Shatterproof, U.S. First Responders Association, National Association of State EMS Officials, and International Association of Firefighters.
Kim joined a total of 67 bi-partisan co-sponsors in support of the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act of 2021. H.R. 138 was introduced into Congress on February 25, 2021, and was also reviewed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week.
The second bill seeks to amend a section of the United States Code that would expand medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and remove hurdles for professionals confronted with duplicative bureaucratic hurdles.
The Ocean County Health Department in conjunction with the Ocean County Board of Commissioners continues to focus on drug prevention, early intervention and treatment access. A copy of their three-year comprehensive plan can be accessed here.
One example of an Ocean County initiative includes the Barnegat Communities that Cares group. Their program focuses on evidence-based and data driven information and act as a resource to assist at-risk youth. While their mission does not solely deal with substance abuse, it is a part of it.
According to the New Jersey Health Department, 219 Ocean County residents died of drug-related deaths in 2018. An alarming percentage of the drugs mentioned in the decedent's toxicology reports included fetanyl and fetanyl analogs.
The State of New Jersey reported a total of 2900 drug overdose deaths in New Jersey in 2020, of which a great percentage involved opioids. Data for the year 2020 shows suspected drug related deaths increased to 3,046 throughout the state, with 245 attributed to Ocean County residents.