Menendez Visits NJ Recovery Center, Lauds $6B in New Federal Funding to Combat Opioid Crisis [VIDEO]


March 2, 2018

ELIZABETH, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy, today toured a local recovery center in Elizabeth, where he met with experts and individuals in recovery, and discussed additional federal resources available to help New Jersey combat the growing opioid epidemic.   

The bipartisan budget agreement signed into law last month, which Sen. Menendez supported, provides an additional $6 billion to fund the national fight against the opioid crisis.  This critical funding will be used for prevention, treatment, and recovery programs to address mental health care and opioid substance use disorders.

“Too many New Jerseyans have struggled with opioid addiction. Too many mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends and neighbors have been lost,” said Sen. Menendez.  “That’s why I was pleased to help pass a two-year budget agreement last month that includes $6 billion in additional funding specifically for fighting the opioid crisis.  That’s $6 billion that will go, not just to addiction treatment and recovery and mental health care, but also relapse prevention, education, and trainings that help recovering addicts rebuild their lives and stay on track.


A record-high 2,221 New Jerseyans died from drug overdoses in 2016, up 40 percent, according to data released by the state Attorney General's Office.  The spike is largely driven by some 1,900 opioid-related deaths from heroin and Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin.  New Jersey has the sixth-highest rate in the nation for visits to the emergency room due to opioid abuse or overdose.

“There is not a community in New Jersey that has not been impacted by the opioid epidemic,” said Angelo Valente, executive director of Drug-Free New Jersey.  “The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is extremely encouraged that these much-needed funds will provide both prevention and treatment resources to residents throughout New Jersey.  We applaud Senator Menendez and other allies for their advocacy and support of this crucial life-saving measure.”

The death rate from drugs rose from 2015 to 2016 in all but three counties—holding flat in Mercer, Salem and Cape May—while jumping 46.3 percent in Union; 85.6 in Essex; 71.7 in Middlesex; 61.4 in Morris; 61.1 in Ocean; 47.6 in Warren; 44 in Sussex; 42.9 in Hunterdon; 39.5 in Cumberland; 35.4 in Gloucester; 34.4 in Monmouth; 30.1 in Passaic; 25.7 in Somerset; 18.7 in Hudson; 16.5 in Bergen; 10.3 in Burlington; 4.7 in Camden; and more than doubling to a high 6.31 deaths per 1,000 residents in Atlantic.

Sen. Menendez visited Elizabethport Community Center in Elizabeth, where he met the staff and individuals in recovery.  The center is run by Prevention Links, an organization that receives federal funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to help prevent and reduce youth substance abuse through community supports and a variety of educational and recreational programs geared towards teens and young adults in recovery, their families and loved ones.

With New Jersey’s overdose death rate on the rise, there seems to be no end in sight to the opioid epidemic for states like ours, being one of the hardest hit across the country,” said Prevention Links CEO Pamela Capaci.  “Thankfully, we have a senator who has been proactive and vocal in assuring that the federal government acts, not just with words or the passing of legislation, but by fighting for the appropriation of funds needed to combat this public health crisis.  Senator Menendez took a hard stance on supporting CARA Act funding, he hosted roundtable discussions with those of us on the ground, and carried our message back to Washington.  It is an honor to host him today, and to be able to thank him in person for being our voice in D.C.”

Sen. Menendez is an original cosponsor of the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act, which would authorize $45 billion over ten years for opioid abuse treatment, prevention, detection, and surveillance programs.

Sen. Menendez cosponsored the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), signed into law in 2016, which provides resources to states to expand disposal sites for unwanted prescription drugs and to develop better monitoring systems for prescription drug use, makes naloxone more widely available to law enforcement agencies and other first responders to help prevent overdoses and save lives, creates an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and intervention program, and sets national treatment standards.

The senator has successfully pushed back Republican efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion, which gives thousands of New Jerseyans access to vital mental health and substance abuse services.  Sen. Menendez visited a community health center in Newark, where he met recovering addicts who credited Medicaid with saving their lives.

Last May, Sen. Menendez helped lead a group of 28 senators in calling for increased federal funding to help combat the opioid and illicit drug abuse epidemic.

Sen. Menendez pressed U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell during a Senate Finance Committee hearing in February 2016 to expand access to medication assisted treatment options, which led HHS a month later to move to double the current patient limit for qualified physicians who prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorders.

Sens. Menendez and Cory Booker hosted a 2016 forum on the opioid epidemic with the U.S. Surgeon General local doctors, treatment providers, and advocates.  The senators convened a statewide summit to explore solutions to the heroin and opioid addiction epidemic gripping New Jersey and the nation.  They partnered with local law enforcement to promote National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day and encouraged New Jerseyans to discard all unwanted narcotic pain killers and other prescription drugs at participating local police stations and county prosecutor’s offices.  Sen. Menendez held another strategy session in the fall of 2015 to discuss drug treatment options and programs, access to medications, and explore ways the federal government can help.