Governor outlines $100 million spending on range of anti-addiction programs to be underpinned by data and analysis ... and a pivot away from Christie-like media promos

Gov. Phil Murphy
Gov. Phil Murphy explains his $100 million plan to fight NJ's opioid epidemic in press conference yesterday.

New funding for community-based providers who can treat outpatients with addictions while these individuals continue with work, school, or family life. More housing and job training for New Jersey residents with — or without — drug dependencies. And better data and real-time analysis of the state’s investments to address these concerns.

These elements form the backbone of Gov. Phil Murphy’s approach to addressing New Jersey’s opioid epidemic, which he outlined yesterday following a tour of the Rescue Mission of Trenton, an agency that helps individuals with homelessness, addiction, and other challenges. He was joined by state health commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal and human services commissioner Carole Johnson, both of whom were sworn in Monday, as well as Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) and other officials.

Murphy also provided some specifics on the $100 million for opioid programs in his budget proposal for fiscal year 2019, which starts in July: $56 million for front-line prevention, treatment and recovery programs; $31 million for job training and to address social risk factors like homelessness; and $13 million to improve data collection and other state infrastructure.

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The Democratic governor offered little detail on how his plans would impact initiatives launched under former Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who made addiction a highly public priority in his final years — and who appeared in a major televised ad campaign to raise awareness about the issue. Christie announced plans for $200 million in new anti-opioid investments in September, four months before he left office.

Half Christie money not spent

But Murphy said less than half of the money Christie outlined had actually been spent, and that his priorities would be “guided by facts and data,” not personal preferences. His budget proposal also seeks to suspend other Christie-era opioid programs, some of which were funded by shifting dollars from other accounts.

“If this were a baseball team, you are seeing us evolve from making decisions based on a gut feeling to Moneyball,” Murphy said, referring to the book and movie of that name that explored how detailed statistical analysis can be used to build a successful baseball team. “Let’s figure out exactly what is working, what is not working, in real time,” he said.


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