TRENTON, NJ (CBS) – Governor Chris Christie signed an executive order today declaring the opioid epidemic a public health crisis in New Jersey.
Christie says the action requires the marshalling of all appropriate resources to combat its harmful effects on New Jersey citizens.
“The human cost of this epidemic is incalculable, impacting every part of life in New Jersey, affecting our education system, our health care system, public safety and the financial security of every person it touches.”
New Jersey’s drug overdose death rate increased by almost 22 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to Christie’s office. There was a 30 percent increase in heroin deaths over the previous year and triple the number of deaths caused by the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
According to the CDC, in 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication, enough for every adult in the U.S. to have a bottle of pills.
The executive order creates the Governor’s Task Force on Drug Abuse Control to be headed by Charlie McKenna. It will be tasked with developing and executing a strategy to combat the drug-abuse epidemic by working with all areas of state government, in addition to local, federal, and private entities, as well as the Facing Addiction Task Force.
The task force will consist of eight members.
The executive order also directs Attorney General Chris Porrino to take all necessary steps to limit the initial prescription of opioids for acute pain and establish standards so that additional quantities may only be prescribed after further consultation with the patient.
“Opioid drug abuse is one of the most challenging issues facing us not only as Americans but as New Jerseyans,” said Governor Christie.
“The crisis is pervasive – impacting our families, friends, neighbors and coworkers. The steps I am taking today through this Executive Order recognize the severity of the crisis and pull together the efforts of all state government agencies.”