TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has called on the federal government to declare a public health emergency in response to the opioid epidemic.
The governor is working as chairman of President Donald Trump’s commission on ‘combating drug addiction and the opioid crisis.’
As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, towns in the tri-state area said they can use the help.
Kevin, 25, is a Bergen County resident who went to the Paramus police seeking help.
“I’m sick of being sick, and it’s not healthy. You lose everything, I lost my job, everything,” he said.
He was meeting with the Heroin Addiction Recovery Team, also known as HART.
“Taking away barriers, so they will not face any consequences for their addiction,” clinician Tara Walsh said.
Kevin said he uses twenty to twenty-five bags of heroin a day.
“It will be hard. I kind of went through this before, and it was hard. It’s a job to get off it,” he said.
He wants to get clean before becoming a statistic.
There were 320 drug overdoses in Bergen County in 2016, 98 of which were fatal — that’s an 11 percent increase from 2015.
“The more troubling issue, the numbrs this year to date have almost 140 narcan saves, on track to surpass last year, and already have 62 fatalities. So if the numbers hold, well over the 98 we had last year. Much, much more has to be done,” Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir Grewal said.
The prosecutor said too many people are dying, prompting law enforcement to veer out of their lane into the public health sector with programs like HART and Helping Hands, at the Bergen County Medical Center giving low-level drug offenders access to treatment, but more support is needed.
“More beds, we’re lucky to have Bergen Regional Medical Center here have over 80 beds, but it’s never enough,” Grewal said.
Gail Cole experienced it first had when her 2-year-old son, Brendan who went to Bergen Catholic, and graduated from the University of Richmond, died of an overdose in 2014.
“It took me a week to find a place, then insurance doesn’t cover what they say they are going to cover and then want you to do outpatient treatment. Thirty days is not enough, it takes twelve to eighteen months for the brain to get back to normal after using opioids,” she said.
The county spends more than $5-million a year on addiction services, some of which the county executive said has seen success; like Spring House, a women’s halfway home.
“When you do invest in the people, and that’s what we are doing, it works with a 98 percent success rate,” County Executive, Jim Tedesco said.
Paramus Police thanked Kevin for bravely sharing his story, and hope it prompts others to choose hope over heroin.
Since the HART program started in May, seven addicts have turned over drug paraphernalia and asked for help.