Fighting for Solutions: Ending the Overdose Crisis

Did you know that eight New Jerseyans lose their lives to a preventable overdose death everyday? That’s eight mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandchildren, and siblings suddenly gone everyday, over 3,000 a year, without any real explanation to help us understand how we got here or what we can do to stop it. We’re facing the biggest public health crisis of our generation, yet our communities continue to face barriers to accessing  life saving interventions and treatments. We’ve heard time and time again from all levels of government, and from wealthy pharmaceutical companies responsible for causing this crisis, that they’re doing everything they can – yet we’re still left grieving as we watch life after life be lost to overdose at record pace. It shouldn’t be this way because we know there are real solutions to end the overdose crisis

Solutions like ensuring all people who use opioids and their loved ones have affordable access to naloxone (commonly known as Narcan) and expanding access to the best treatments available to our loved ones like Medically Assisted Treatments – especially for people on Medicaid and without health insurance.  It also means making sure our state government is transparent and accountable to us about how they’re addressing the crisis, where the money is going, and that substance use disorder and overdose prevention programs and services have proper oversight at the state level. (Are you a nerd? See our detailed legislative priorities below) 

So what gives? If we know what the solutions are how come nothing is changing? Well, I’m glad you asked, but you might not like the answer. The truth is well to-do pharmaceutical companies (*Cough  in your elbow* Johnson & Johnson *Cough in your elbow* Purdue Pharma), along with some pretty seedy snake-oil salesmen in the treatment industry have been calling the shots for far too long. They’ve been lining their pockets off of our suffering and making the rules work for them, not us. For example, did you know that Narcan can cost between $250-$450 per dose without insurance coverage? That’s thanks to Opiant, the Pharmaceutical company that holds the patent for nasal naloxone (Narcan) and can charge whatever they want for a single dose of their product until 2035. They’ve profited billions from the sale of the drug already and will profit billions more before their patent is up.  Or, did you know that right now, the rehab industry can legally hire marketers to recruit new patients and give monetary kickbacks and gifts in exchange for filling their beds? They’re not looking to save your loved ones’ life, they’re looking to make a quick $30K+ from your health insurance provider. 

Right about now you might be feeling a bit bummed from reading all that. If only someone would do something about all this… Well, what if that someone was YOU? Alone we may feel helpless and powerless, but together as people in recovery, loved ones, and people currently struggling with substance use we are POWERFUL and can win the solutions our communities need to end the overdose crisis once and for all. That’s why we are hosting the Fighting for Solutions: Ending Overdose tour across some of New Jersey’s hardest hit communities by the overdose crisis. 

If you’re ready to create real change and be the somebody we’ve all been waiting for join us on the tour:

April 8th at 6pm at the Toms River Library

April 21st at 6pm at the Lacey Town Community 

May 7th at 5pm at the Millville Public Library 

Following us along the tour will be our Fighting for Solutions: Ending Overdose Memorial Wall to help us tell our collective story about how this crisis has impacted our communities and families. Bring a photo or memento of a loved one you’d like to add to the wall. 

See you on the tour!

Priscilla Robinson for the New Jersey Organizing Project

Our 2020 State Legislative Priorities:

Transparency, Accountability & Oversight on how NJ is addressing the overdose crisis: Every day in NJ, eight people die from a preventable overdose. While New Jersey has invested funding to address the crisis – for example, Governor Murphy has allocated $300 million over the last three years – it is unclear what the impact of the funding has been, as overdose deaths decreased by only 3% last year. We are working to create legislation that holds government agencies accountable for reporting how exactly the funds are being used, what programs are being implemented, and providing outcome reports about who is able to access them.  In that way, we hope to answer questions about why important new policies – like banning prior authorization for Medically-Assisted treatment for New Jerseyans with Medicaid – don’t seem to be having a wide-spread impact on increasing access to MAT. We can then direct existing funding and much needed additional funding to the interventions that are saving lives.  

Windfall Tax on Big Pharma companies: Home to both the greatest number of pharmaceutical manufacturers and highest overdose death rates in the country, NJ is in need of a windfall tax system. Drug companies have profited immeasurably on the death and destruction of millions of human lives and need to be held accountable. Taxed dollars should go toward expanding access to evidence-based treatment interventions in communities most wrought by the overdose crisis.

A2270/S962: Would create an agency to credential and regulate sober living homes to ensure all homes are up to code and respect the dignity of those living in them. Currently, there is no oversight system in place to ensure sober living homes are run equitably or by people with certification to do so, and thousands of people are exploited financially and otherwise by harmful home managers.

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