NJ.com - N.J. heroin crisis: Christie discusses new tool in battle against overdoses


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, and acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni listen as Dave Roden, of the New Hope Foundation during a roundtable discussion about Christie's Narcan pilot initiative. (Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger)
James Queally/The Star-LedgerBy James Queally/The Star-Ledger 
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on April 02, 2014 at 6:03 PM, updated April 02, 2014 at 9:12 PM

BRICK — Police officers and first responders in Ocean and Monmouth counties will begin carrying naloxone, a drug that can counter the effects of an opiate overdose, Gov. Chris Christie said today as New Jersey continues its years-long battle against a heroin and prescription pill epidemic that has resulted in hundreds of deaths.

Every police officer in the two counties will carrying the drug within 45 days, officials said.

"The war on drugs has failed," Christie said during a press conference in Brick Township to announce the launch of the program. "Well-intentioned, conceived out of the hope that it could work, but incarcerating people ... has been an abject failure."

Naloxone is an aerosol spray that blocks the body’s opiate receptors, countering the effects of a heroin or prescription drug overdose. By equipping police and first responders with the drug, the time between when a victim shows the first symptoms of an overdose and when they receive help is cut tremendously.

Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato began pushing the program late last year, after his county saw a record-breaking 112 overdose deaths. The majority of those fatalities were linked to heroin or opiates. Starting Thursday, police in Seaside Heights, Barnegat and Surf City will be carrying the drug. All police countywide will carry the drug within two weeks, Coronato said.

Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said all police officers in his county will be carrying the drug within 45 days.

West Long Branch police chief Lawrence Mihlon talks about his son's heroin overdose during Chris Christie Narcan news conferenceWest Long Branch Police Chief Lawrence Mihlon speaks about the 2013 heroin overdose suffered by his 22-year-old son during a news conference by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in Brick Township to announce the launch of a pilot program in Monmouth and Ocean counties that will enable police and first responders to carry a heroin antidote drug. 4/2/2014 (Star-Ledger video by Andrew Mills)

"We’re tired of coming across people and putting toe tags on them," he said.

Christie said he hopes to see the program implemented statewide and police are wasting little time helping that cause.

Prosecutors in Hunterdon and Cape May counties have said late last year they are considering deploying naloxone. Al Della Fave, a spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, said he has spoken with prosecutors in eight counties as well as police in New York, Virginia and Wisconsin about using naloxone.

The number of people abusing heroin in New Jersey has skyrocketed since 2010, and today’s announcement came on the heels of the release of a state report calling for massive reforms to New Jersey’s treatment infrastructure and prescription pill monitoring laws.

Last week, Christie signed a waiver making it legal for first responders to carry naloxone.