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Gov Supports Narcan, Says War on Drugs Failed [AUDIO]

To fight the state’s surging heroin epidemic, Gov. Chris Christie stresses the need for treatment, not just arrests.

Gov. Chris Christie in Monmouth County
Gov. Chris Christie (c.) meets with officials in Monmouth County (Ilya Hemlin, Townsquare Media NJ)

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In Brick on Wednesday for the announcement of the Narcan pilot program’s expansion into Monmouth County, the governor said residents must look at new ways of addressing the addiction epidemic, focusing on treatment and rehabilitation over incarceration.

He said the war on drugs, though launched with good intentions, has failed.

“Incarcerating people exclusively for drug-related problems, especially nonviolent folks, has been an abject failure,” Christie said.

While the governor said there will “always be jail cells for violent sociopaths who may have drugs as part of their problem,” he explained that we can’t lump nonviolent addicts with those people.

“It is time to stop stigmatizing those who have fallen to an illness, an addiction,” Christie said.

According to the governor, not only is the current system failing the citizens of New Jersey, but it’s also costing them money.

“We incarcerate them at the cost of $49,000 a year here in New Jersey, we don’t give them treatment, drugs are smuggled into our state prisons despite our best efforts, and people go back out onto the streets addicted,” Christie said.

The expansion of the pilot program will allow police in Ocean and Monmouth counties to carry Narcan, a drug that can be administered nasally and reverses the effects of an opiate overdose immediately.

Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said, compared to incarcerating or burying addicts, Narcan is an inexpensive way to give people a second chance at life.

“The cost of a dose of Narcan is $25, the cost of the kit in which the Narcan comes is $25,” Hoffman said. “Fifty dollars is all it costs to save lives.”

For the first year of the program, the cost of the Narcan and kits will be paid for by monies seized in criminal investigations.

The drug is part of a comprehensive approach both counties have initiated, which also includes education and the monitoring of prescription painkiller prescriptions — often the precursor to heroin abuse.

Ocean County, which had over 100 overdose deaths in 2013, has already begun the pilot program, and several police departments are now carrying the life-saving drug.

Seaside Heights is up today, also Surf City is up today, Barnegat will be up tomorrow, and probably within two weeks every single department in Ocean County will have Narcan,” said Ocean County prosecutor Joseph Coronato.

Monmouth County prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni emphasized how lethal heroin abuse is, and how often it goes underestimated by the public. He said in Monmouth, about 70 people die each year from heroin overdoses.

Christie and Hoffman acknowledged that they have received interest from other counties about the program, and said if it is successful, it would be expanded across the state.

“If we continue to do what we’ve done (before the program), we’re guaranteed of failure,” Christie said.

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