Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday unveiled several new initiatives designed to strengthen the state’s fight against the opioid epidemic.
“The opioid epidemic continues to devastate families and communities across our state,” said Murphy at Cooper University Medical Center in Camden. “As we combat this crisis, it is critical that we use data-driven, evidence-based strategies to support individuals suffering from addiction and help them get on the path to recovery.”
In 2018, more than 3,000 individuals in New Jersey died due to overdoses.
Among the key strategies that Murphy outlined for combatting the epidemic: increasing access to evidence-based prevention and treatment programs in our communities; supporting individuals on their path to, and maintenance of recovery; building sound data systems and strengthening system-wide infrastructure for the addictions community; and delivering robust law enforcement to stem the supply of illicit drugs, while also supporting diversion programs.
Murphy announced that Medicaid would be removing the requirement for prior authorization for Medication Assisted Treatment. According to Murphy, prior authorizations have shown to be a timely administrative barrier to life-saving treatment for patients.
Additionally, Murphy said that Medicaid is launching a suite of initiatives to advance accessibility to MAT.
Medicaid is launching the Office Based Addiction Treatment program, which will create new Medicaid reimbursement incentives for primary care providers to provide MAT for opioid addiction. Further, Medicaid will be building Centers of Excellence for opioid treatment at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.
The governor also announced the addition of opioid addiction to the Medicinal Marijuana Program as an eligible condition. The MMP will have expanded availability by allowing for the use of medical cannabis as an adjunct to MAT for all patients that suffer from opioid addiction, not only those with chronic pain.
“We cannot defeat the opioid epidemic and we cannot win the fight against addiction if we do not work together – and that’s exactly what we have been doing,” said state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
“While prescription opioid use is down, in the first few weeks of 2019 we have already had over 100 suspected overdose deaths. To save lives – we are coordinating an all-hands-on-deck response – across government and within the Department of Law and Public Safety. We are bringing all of our resources to bear to unleash a full attack on drug addiction,” Grewal said.
“We are pleased to announce that, as of today, opioid use disorder is a condition for which physicians can recommend medical marijuana to patients,” said state Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “We are also taking steps to ensure that these patients will be on MAT for their addiction, in addition to marijuana. Finally, DOH is doubling down on syringe access programs and initiatives to reduce opioid prescribing, proven methods for reducing the impact of opioid addiction.”
According to Murphy, his administration advanced $100 million from his Fiscal Year 2019 budget to tackle New Jersey’s opioid crisis and has implemented an aggressive, multifaceted approach to combat the epidemic by making outpatient treatment more accessible, enhancing real-time data collection to focus on risk factors, and expanding access to social services.