Gov. Chris Christie Stresses Increased Prescriber Education, Destigmatizing Addiction in Do No Harm Keynote Speech on Opioid Crisis



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Gov. Chris Christie Stresses Increased Prescriber Education, Destigmatizing Addiction in Do No Harm Keynote Speech on Opioid Crisis

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Gov. Chris Christie addressed medical professionals Monday, June 12, at the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey’s Do No Harm symposium at Morristown Medical Center. The governor was joined on stage by Partnership Chair Elaine Pozycki and Executive Director Angelo Valente.


MORRISTOWN — Gov. Chris Christie highlighted the potential impact of prescribers in stemming the deadly opioid epidemic gripping the nation while addressing medical professionals at the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey’s Do No Harm symposium Monday at Morristown Medical Center.

“We are creating heroin addicts through our use of legal prescription drugs,” Christie said. “We are using them much too broadly, much too extensively. I believe that we need to educate our medical professionals, so that they understand exactly the effect that this type of medication is having on people over the long term.”

Monday’s symposium represented the 19th of the Do No Harm series, which began in 2013 and has reached more than 3,500 doctors, dentists and healthcare providers since the program’s inception.

“There is not a day that goes by without hearing or seeing a story in the media on the impact of the misuse of prescription medication” said Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey Executive Director Angelo Valente. “Today, we gather for this Morris County Do No Harm symposium, not to assign blame or look for scapegoats, but instead to find and discuss real common-sense solutions to this epidemic that is ravaging New Jersey.”

In addition to addressing the medical field’s role in fighting against the opioid crisis, the governor also emphasized the need to educate the public about the disease of addiction.

“The reason I believe so many people are dying is because of the stigma attached to this disease,” Christie said.

The event was co-sponsored by the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, the Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey Division, Atlantic Health System, Saint Clare’s Health, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, the Morris County Sheriff’s Department and the Community Coalition for a Safe & Healthy Morris.

“We are very proud to have been partnering with The Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey (PDFNJ) on the Do No Harm series since it began in October 2013,” said Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division. “It has been vitally important to include the medical community in our battle against heroin and prescription opioid abuse.” 

Other speakers at the symposium included experts from the medical, legal and law enforcement fields, who provided a comprehensive look into the nationwide opioid crisis and the role of prescribers in preventing opioid abuse by their patients.

“We need to continue to closely work with our legislators, our county and each other on the regulation of prescribing safer opioid use,” said Trish O’Keefe, PhD, RN, president of Morristown Medical Center, part of Atlantic Health System. “It is truly our duty to find the best practices to ensure that those who need high-level pain medication can receive it, but also to reduce the risk of abuse and potential diversion.”

Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.

“We really have our work cut out, and it starts with recognizing the issue is out there, doing some education to make sure everyone is aware to what we can do and providing access to the services that are so important in the community,” said Brian Finestein, CEO of Saint Clare’s Health.

From 1999 to 2015, more than 183,000 people died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Medical professionals are a critical component of fighting our heroin and opioid epidemic,” Morris County Prosecutor Fredric Knapp said. “This event is geared towards doctors and other health care providers to educate them as to the importance of their role in combating the addiction cycle.”

Morris County Sheriff James Gannon added that the medical community will play a major role in what will require a full-scale effort across all fields to combat the opioid crisis.

“I know collectively we can continue to make a great difference here in Morris County and beyond,” he said.


Best known for its statewide anti-drug advertising campaign, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is a private not-for-profit coalition of professionals from the communications, corporate and government communities whose collective mission is to reduce demand for illicit drugs in New Jersey through media communication. To date, more than $70 million in broadcast time and print space has been donated to the Partnership’s New Jersey campaign, making it the largest public service advertising campaign in New Jersey’s history. Since its inception the Partnership has garnered 166 advertising and public relations awards from national, regional and statewide media organizations.