The New Jersey Department of Health announced on Wednesday it received $7.4 million in CDC Overdose Data to Action Funding aimed at addressing drug overdoses in the state.
The funding will be used to amplify the Murphy Administration’s comprehensive approach of linking individuals with substance use disorder to care and treatment, reducing opioid prescribing and improving data collection to better inform initiatives.
The department will pass $4.3 million of the grant money to the Department of Law and Public Safety for use over a three-year period to fund programs and initiatives that advance the fight against the opioid crisis. The vast majority of the funds – $3 million – will be used to enhance and expand Operation Helping Hand programs in all 21 counties.
“The overdose epidemic is a complex public health challenge,” said Department of Health Acting Commissioner Judith Persichilli in a statement. “With this funding, we are further engaging health care providers, local health officials and law enforcement to ensure more residents are connected to treatment and to build on the state’s comprehensive approach to reduce overdoses in our state.”
The funding will be used to establish more robust links to care for individuals with substance use disorder with a particular focus on vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, homeless individuals and LGBTQ+ populations.
The Department of Health said it will expand the “5 Minutes to Help” training initiative for EMS to improve connections to care for non-fatal overdose victims. This program, which consists of both an online and in classroom component, focuses on all first responders (EMS, police, and fire).
The Department of Health said that it will also invest in Harm Reduction Centers in the state. New Jersey has seven Harm Reduction Centers, also known as Syringe Access Programs, which provide access to new syringes, overdose prevention education, naloxone, and HIV and Hepatitis C testing. The additional funding will expand the scope of harm reduction specialists to provide outreach, counseling and care coordination at these centers to help populations particularly vulnerable in this epidemic to make safer choices.
With this funding, the department said that it will also promote trauma-informed approaches among health care providers, which will ultimately improve access to prevention and treatment services for individuals facing addiction.
Trauma Informed Care recognizes the impact of trauma on clients and provides care and support services that are appropriate to those who may have experienced trauma. Trauma informed strategies offered at Harm Reduction Centers, Federally Qualified Health Centers and from EMS providers and Community Health Workers will improve client engagement, help identify methods to address trauma-related behaviors among people who use drugs and other high-risk populations and develop tools for clients to participate in meaningful prevention and care services.
The funding will also support improved data collection and analysis to better understand the status of the overdose epidemic in our state and employ better-informed strategies for prevention of use, and reduction of deaths and recidivism. The CDC funding will help the Department collect more timely and comprehensive data from emergency departments, improve overdose data analysis naloxone administration and other key data points.
With these funds, the department will continue to build on its Opioid Data Dashboard, which provides statistics on overdose deaths, crime, naloxone administration, prescription monitoring, drug-related hospital visits, and other important data to understand the population health impacts of the epidemic.
“Defeating the opioid crisis in New Jersey demands our sustained support for individuals struggling to break the cycle of addiction. The grant money we will receive from the Department of Health will provide program funding for years to come,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. “This critical revenue source will help us hold the ground we have gained in the battle against addiction as we continue our efforts to combat this deadly health crisis.”
To strengthen local efforts to address the overdose epidemic, the Department of Health will also provide grants to local health departments to expand and integrate Opioid Fatality Review Teams across the state.