NEW JERSEY (CBSNewYork) — New Jersey drug-related deaths have reached a six-year high due mostly to opioid overdoses, new data shows.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office found over 2,000 deaths in the state in 2016 compared with just over 1,500 the year before — a 40 percent increase. Essex County reported the most drug-related deaths in 2016, followed by Ocean and Bergen counties.
The state’s spike is consistent with the rest of the nation which saw 64,000 drug-related deaths in 2016, Marla Diamond reported.
Alarmed by the rising number of deaths due to heroin and its more dangerous synthetic counterpart fentanyl, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal made combating the scourge of opioid abuse a central focus of his tenure as Bergen County prosecutor.
Now he is taking that effort statewide.
“I’ve made it a priority because I’ve had to. It is just such a big problem. I think it is the number one issue facing law enforcement in this county, in this state and in this country right now,” Grewal said. “The number of young people that are dying it’s just tremendous.”
Grewal has established an office called NJ CARES, including an around-the-clock opioid response teams sharing data across state agencies and real-time web updates on overdose deaths that will alert first responders to be on the lookout for deadly batches of heroin and fentanyl.