ATLANTIC CITY â Gov. Chris Christie said Friday people are âin denial about the lives lostâ to addiction.
He said it reminds him of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s. People scrutinize the conduct of those who get sick and develop an addiction, which he said results in a lack of treatment and discourages people from seeking help.
He referenced his late motherâs lung cancer that was brought on by her addiction to smoking cigarettes. âNo one came to me and told me she was getting what she deserved,â Christie said.
The governor spoke to more than 1,200 state leaders in addiction prevention, treatment and recovery at the New Jersey Prevention Networkâs 17th annual Addiction Conference. Everyone from substance abuse counselors and addiction advocates to legislators and county prosecutors rubbed shoulders at the Convention Center to share ways of addressing addiction in their communities.
In his last year as governor, Christie has made opioid addiction his top priority.
âAll of you in this room are well aware of it, because youâre in the middle of a fight to try and push those realities backwards,â Christie said of high overdose and death rates.
President Donald Trump announced earlier this month that Christie would chair an official federal commission under the new White House Office of American Innovation that would address the nationâs rising opioid epidemic.
About 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, including from heroin use and prescription misuse, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In New Jersey, nearly 1,500 people died in 2015 from a drug overdose.
Christie said he met with U.S. congressmen Tuesday to talk about addiction issues and possible strategies to tackle what he calls a pandemic
The governor hinted at what he and the federal commission will be doing in the future, which involves reaching out to major social media companies such as Facebook, Google and Snapchat to see what they can do to better educate young people on addiction.
State initiatives from the Governorâs Office involve getting more inpatient treatment beds, educating more physicians on the effects of opioid medications and improving insurance coverage for medication-assisted treatment.
From the law-enforcement side, Christie said, he had no qualms about jailing dealers, but it becomes a problem when people with addictions become incarcerated and donât get help.
The former Mid-State Correctional Facility in Burlington County was reopened three weeks ago, after a $28 million renovation, as a drug treatment center for prisoners. Christie said eligible inmates with addictions will get transferred to the facility in the last year of their sentences to get treatment.
âWe want to continue in New Jersey to lead the way on…