The Opioid Epidemic in New Jersey

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In many ways, New Jersey has become a national model for its response to the ongoing opioid epidemic. With significant public dollars allocated to treatment and recovery programs under former Gov. Chris Christie, providers are eager to explore new clinical options for prevention and care. But the challenge continues to grow: Opioids killed more than 1,600 state residents in 2016.

In Part 1 of a 3-event series sponsored by EANJ, a roundtable discussion helped define today's critical concerns and explored the medical and legislative dimensions of prevention and harm reduction.

Employers spent $2.6 billion to treat opioid addiction and overdoses in 2016, an eightfold increase since 2004. More than half went to treat employees' children.

A report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation found such spending cost companies and workers about $26 per enrollee in 2016.

One key in reducing the impact of addiction is curbing the flow of prescription opioids, the panelists agreed. National data suggests four out of five recent heroin addicts first became hooked on prescription drugs, although these pills may have been obtained illegally, panelists said.

Employers have been limiting insurance coverage of opioids because of concerns about addiction. The report finds spending on opioid prescriptions falling 27 percent from a peak in 2009.

A combination of awareness, stricter regulation, and new clinical protocols has helped drive down opioid prescription levels — a nearly 20 percent decline since 2015 in New Jersey. But close to 1,400 residents have died of overdose-related causes so far this year, putting the Garden State on track to surpass last year’s mortality figures by up to 1,000 lives, state data suggests.

For a summary of the panel discussion, click here.