New Jersey will share in $26 million in federal grants earmarked to combat opioid abuse, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.
The state will get a share of an $11 million program to train first responders on how to prevent deaths due to opoiod overdoses and to buy naloxone, a drug administered to individuals who overdose; and funds from a $6 million effort to collect data and analyze it to develop community programs to address the problem of opioid abuse.
In addition, New Jersey will get a portion of $9 million set aside to educate residents about misusing prescription drugs, primarily by highlighting the dangers of sharing medications and overprescribing opioids.
Gov. Chris Christie said the state's share will exceed $7.6 million and go to the state health and human services departments.
"These funding grants are another important step in combating opioid misuse and abuse in New Jersey while strengthening our ability to positively impact the opioid crisis in our state by saving lives," Christie said.
In all, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services made $53 million available to 44 states, four Indian tribes and the District of Columbia
"States are on the front line of preventing prescription opioid overdoses — it is critical that state health departments have the support they need to combat the epidemic," said Tom Friedan, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "States can use these funds to develop, implement, and evaluate programs that save lives."
The grants announced Wednesday are separate from President Barack Obama's request of $1.1 billion over two years to combat opioid and heroin addiction, which is pending in Congress. That program could mean $22 million in additional federal funding for New Jersey.
The House has passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7th Dist.) to require the Food and Drug Administration to review how doctors and their patients are told of the benefits and risks of opioid pain medications.
Separately, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6th Dist.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has introduced legislation to spend $500 million a year to train doctors who prescribe opioids, to help first responders and others who treat those who overdose, and to expand drug treatment.
Addiction to opioids, used to relieve pain, has become a major problem across the U.S. If all 128,000 New Jersey heroin addicts lived in the same place, it would be the state's fourth largest city.
Heroin and opioid admissions accounted for 49 percent of all substance abuse admissions in New Jersey in 2014, the highest in at least a decade, according to the state Division of Mental Health and Addiction Service
Christie in 2014 established a task force to deal with addiction, setting programs designed to quickly respond to those who survived an overdose and to provide support to help former prisoners who were addicted to drugs.