Posted Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Governor Chris Christie today signed legislation to enhance and expand addiction treatment opportunities and improve relationships between law enforcement officers and those suffering from addiction.

MORRIS-COUNTY-STIGMA-FREE“All too often people afflicted with the disease of addiction have negative, counterproductive and repeated interactions with the criminal justice system,” Governor Christie said. “This new law allows police officers —often the first people to discover nonviolent drug offenders in their worst state — to become a point of access for help and recovery.

“This law improves upon access and assistance for those suffering from addiction, helping them to obtain treatment and re-enter society as productive members.”

Drug overdose death rates in New Jersey have been reported this year as multiple times higher than increasing national rates.

This action goes hand-in-hand with the Morris County Board of Freeholders’ resolution that declared Morris County a Stigma Free” community. The board has asked all of the county’s 39 towns to join in the countywide effort to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance abuse disorders.

The county’s Department of Human Services has created a new Stigma Free website to call attention to the initiative and to help direct people suffering from those illnesses and additions to available help and services. A new Stigma Free “toolbox’’ has been created and is posted on the county website.

“We are dedicated to raising awareness of these illnesses by creating an environment where affected individuals are supported in their efforts to achieve wellness and recovery,’’ said Morris County Human Services Director Jennifer Carpinteri.

Bill A-3744/S-2330 (McKeon, Vainieri Huttle, Caputo, Jasey, Downey/Codey, Vitale), which includes the governor’s recommendations from an August conditional veto, provides for the establishment of these law enforcement-assisted addiction and recovery programs in law enforcement departments throughout the State.

Under this new law, the Director of Mental Health and Addiction Services, in consultation with the Attorney General, will:

  • Prescribe by regulation requirements for county and municipal law enforcement departments to establish a program within their departments;
  • Develop and implement guidelines for the recruitment and training of law enforcement officers, volunteers, and treatment providers to participate in the program;
  • Support and facilitate the linkage of law enforcement assisted addiction and recovery programs to facilities and programs that provide appropriate substance abuse recovery services and health care services;
  • Coordinate with law enforcement officials and program volunteers to ensure that individuals seeking to participate in the program are treated with respect, care, and compassion, and are reassured that assistance will be provided;
  • Establish requirements for an individual to be eligible for participation in the program;
  • Develop and implement procedures for determining eligibility requirements for the program.

According to the Governor’s Office, this is one of a series of actions taken by the Christie’s administration, including drug court expansion; statewide Narcan and recovery coach program implementation; new legal protections for those helping drug overdose victims; criminal justice reform to put nonviolent offenders on a path to recovery and productivity; the conversion of a correctional facility into a drug treatment center for inmates with addictions; and increased participation in the multistate Prescription Monitoring Program to prevent doctor shopping.