NJ Votes On Opioid Bill As New Program Offers HOPE To Staten Island Addicts

TRENTON, N.J. (CBsNewYork/AP) — New Jersey lawmakers are set to vote on legislation sought by Gov. Chris Christie to help curb the state’s opioid crisis.

The Democrat-led Assembly scheduled a vote Wednesday on a bill to curb initial opioid prescriptions to a five-day supply. The measure also mandates state-regulated health insurers cover inpatient and outpatient treatment for drug addiction.

“That will actually have providers having to give at least six months of treatment,” Prieto told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell.

The prescription drug limit would not apply to cancer and chronic pain patients and for end-of-life care. The legislation also calls for continuing education for professionals who prescribe drugs. 

Christie called for the measures as part of a broader focus on the epidemic. Earlier this month, Christie signed legislation requiring medical professionals to discuss the possibility of addiction when prescribing opioid drugs to those under 18.

Nearly 1,600 people died from opioids in 2015 in New Jersey.

According to Prieto, four out of five heroin addicts started with legal drugs.

Christie, who is devoting his final year in office to the crisis, met with President Donald Trump Tuesday on the issue.

Christie’s term ends in January 2018. Legislators have broadly signaled support for the governor’s agenda.

On Staten Island, a groundbreaking new approach to fighting heroin addiction means drug users may never spend a day in jail.

It’s called ‘Heroin Overdose Prevention and Education’ but as CBS2’s Jessica Moore explained, some offenders have already started referring to the program by its acronym; HOPE.

For Anne Marie Perrotto, the opioid epidemic ravaging Staten Island is personal.

“The most that I miss is his hugs because when he hugged me he did it from his heart,” she said.

Christopher Perrotto was a straight A student, and high school athlete. He started taking pain medicine after a car crash, until an accidental overdose killed him in April 2011 — he was 22-years-old.

“He took me, he took my heart, a part of it,” Anne Marie said.

In 2015, Staten Island had the highest rate of overdose deaths across all five boroughs.

“It’s an epidemic that’s really become a plague,” Richmond County District Attorney Michael mcMahon said.

On Wednesday, McMahon joined cops and public health officials to announce a new program called HOPE. It’s designed to stop overdose statistics in their tracks.

“This program will redirect low level drug offenders to community based health services instead of jail and prosecution,” he said.

Offenders are given seven days after an arrest to enroll in a treatment center and another thirty to fully engage in recovery. If they show meaningful engagement they won’t face prosecution.

The early results have been promising.

Since the program’s launch on January 17, twenty-eight offenders have been offered HOPE, with seven doing so well in the program that the DA has decided to drop the charges against the,.

One of the program approved rehab facilities is called Christopher’s Reason on the south shore.

Perrotto opened the clinic in November 2016 as a way of making sure no other family has to live with the loss of a child.

“You have to educate them on that disease and show them their self worth and that it can be done and that’s what I’m doing,” she said. “If he had the help he needed and this program was around, he would still be here.”

It’s the thought of her son that motivates Perrotto to ensure other mothers live with their children and not just with their memories.

The program is limited to drug users arrested for the first or second time with no outstanding warrants.

The District Attorney said drug dealers will never be eligible as his office actively works to get dealers off the street and in prison.

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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