How should NJ spend $641M in opioid settlement funds? / NJ Spotlight / August 15, 2023

By Brenda Flanagan

Advocates argue for prioritizing harm-reduction efforts.

New Jersey leaders are weighing how to spend a $641 million legal settlement from drugmakers that helped fuel the nation’s opioid epidemic. The state’s Opioid Recovery and Remediation Advisory Council conducted listening sessions on how best to channel those funds, but some advocates are worried.

“They listen to us, and they act like they’re concerned and we get a lot of, ‘Oh, wow — that’s really interesting. Thank you for your time. And then we see over and over again, it’s falling on deaf ears,”said Elizabeth Burke Beaty, founder of the Sea Change Recovery Community.

Beaty is a recovering addict working on the front lines to save people from opioids. Her grassroots group joined about 130 others to issue a national report advising states where to focus some $50 billion in drug-settlement award money, with an emphasis on harm reduction. The report urges spending money on medication for addiction treatment, syringe exchange programs, access to the opioid antidote Narcan and overdose prevention centers, among other items.

Some groups believe the advisory council needs more representation from New Jersey’s rural areas, which have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic but lack resources.

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