Gov. Chris Christie devoted his final State of the State speech to outlining a plan to fight drug addiction.
Christie told a joint session of the New Jersey Legislature Tuesday that addiction is the single most important issue he wants to address in the final year of his second term.
“I will not have the blood of addicted New Jerseyans on my hands by waiting to act,” he said. “I will not willingly watch another 1,600 of our citizens die and watch their families mourn and suffer.”
Christie is proposing increased funding to provide more treatment access for young people, a specific curriculum on opioids in every school, and a rule that would limit initial prescriptions of opioid painkillers to a five-day supply.
He also requested that lawmakers quickly pass a measure requiring insurers to pay for at least six months of drug treatment.
“Whether you child lives or dies should not be subject to a denial letter from an insurance company,” he said.
Senate President Steve Sweeney says moving quickly on that proposal is the right thing to do.
“There’s too many families that can’t get their loved ones where they need it, and insurance companies are always interfering, looking at their bottom line rather than people,” he said. “So if we can get it done in 30 days, I’m going to do everything I can to get it done in 30 days.”
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said lawmakers will work with the governor to increase access to treatment, but that won’t be the only item on their agenda.
“If we get this one in 30 days, we have 11 months to deal with school funding, transportation infrastructure, health care, a lot of issues,” she said.
While Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto said addiction is indeed an epidemic and needs a lot of attention, he he disagreed that it’s the state’s most important issue.
“It is a very important issue because it actually affects lives, it affects many residents of this state, and as there is an epidemic we have to root it out,” he said. “But there’s many challenges, and, obviously, it will be pivotal to hear his budget address as where we’re going.”