NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie will announce the statewide expansion Tuesday of a program that allows police officers to carry and administer a drug that can quickly reverse a heroin overdose.
Law enforcement officers in every county in the state, as well as state troopers, will now be trained to administer naloxone, which is delivered through the nose and can reverse an overdose that would likely otherwise be fatal, officials said.
The governor planned to discuss the plan at the Rescue Mission of Trenton, which offers drug treatment and job training, among other programs.
The Republican governor announced a pilot program in April that allowed police in Ocean and Monmouth counties to administer the drug, which is commonly marketed under the brand name Narcan. That pilot was later expanded to Camden County. More than 28,000 certified EMTs were also issued waivers allowing them to carry and administer the drug in March.
Officials credit the program with helping save more than 40 lives, largely in Ocean County, where heroin deaths more than doubled from 53 in 2012 to 112 in 2013.
A spokesman for the governor described the short pilot as “very successful” and said there has been demand for an expansion.
“Every minute counts in an emergency overdose situation, so having our law enforcement officers as well as our first responders carry and administer this medication may mean the difference between life and death,” Christie said in an emailed statement.
The governor — a former prosecutor and potential 2016 presidential contender — has spoken in strong terms about the devastation of substance abuse, declaring the war on drugs a failure and stressing the need for treatment as an alternative to incarceration.
“Drug abuse and addiction is a disease that can happen to any one of us from anywhere in this state. It doesn’t discriminate,” he said in the statement, noting that it has been 43 years since the war on drugs began.
While well-intentioned, he said, “the war on drugs has been a failure to the tune of more than $1 trillion dollars. It does not work.”
A recent report from the Task Force on Heroin and Other Opiate Use by New Jersey’s Youth and Young Adults described the “skyrocketing use of heroin and other opiates” as the “number one health care crisis confronting New Jersey.”
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