New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Says the War on Drugs has Failed
Christie says it’s time to stop treating addiction as a crime and to start treating it as a disease. He advocates moving from mandatory incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders to mandatory treatment, adding that this will â€œyield a greater result for society in general and for individuals in particular.â€Demand for drug and alcohol treatment has increased over the last ten years, especially for those hooked on heroin and prescription painkillers. In 2010, only 15 percent of an estimated 37 percent of New Jersey residents who sought treatment for substance abuse actually received it. In the meantime, heroin-related deaths increased by 160 percent.With insufficient treatment beds and insurance companies that wonâ€™t cover rehab, it’s not surprising that so few addicts recover. According to Christie, the state and the private sector must work together to increase treatment spots while counties connect addicts with treatment options.The New Jersey governor is no stranger to the suffering caused by opioid drugs, having lost a good friend to an overdose earlier this year. Christie himself worked with an adolescent treatment center in 1995 after he was appointed to the Human Services Committee. These experiences helped Christie to see that addiction can happen to anyone.Since the war on drugs has failed, Christie has pushed for mandatory addiction treatment instead of incarceration for non-violent drug offenders. By expanding the use of Narcan, an opioid overdose antidote, hundreds of lives in New Jersey have been saved. Christie plans to work with Sen Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) to increase drug prevention, treatment, and education services. He also intends to pressure insurance companies to provide more coverage for drug treatment and to support efforts to create additional treatment facilities.Christie points out that one year of residential treatment costs only half as much as one year of incarceration. This translates into short term savings and long term benefits. A sober person who is employed and pays taxes is worth more to the state than someone who is dependent on the state and doesn’t pay taxes.
Although this sounds good, those in the treatment community like Alan Oberman, CEO of the John Brooks Recovery Center in Atlantic City, point out that although Christie has been a pro-treatment governor, there is still no funding for additional treatment facilities. Christie believes that funding will come from the private sector because there is money to be made in the treatment business. Meanwhile, the state will do its part by mandating treatment through drug court.
Itâ€™s important, Christie says, to see addiction as a disease instead of a crime. He adds that there are many addicts who need treatment, but wonâ€™t seek help because they fear the stigma of addiction.