New Jersey is in the throes of a heroin and opioid addiction epidemic, but the rest of the country is no stranger to the crisis according to one New Jersey Congressman.

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Rep. Frank Pallone (D- NJ6) has unveiled comprehensive legislation to address the substance abuse crisis plaguing far too many communities in New Jersey and across the country. The "Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Reduction Act" would commit $500 million annually to help people at all stages of addiction.

“We’re trying to deal with the heroin and opioid crisis in every way by preventing people from becoming addicted, by treating people who have the problem and also addressing long-term recovery,” Pallone said. “A lot of what we’re doing here is to try to look at proven ways of dealing with prevention and treatment and recovery.”

The bill actually had four prongs. They included:

  • Preventing the onset of substance abuse;
  • Responding to people already in crisis;
  • Making sure all patients access to treatment; and
  • Supporting life-long addiction recovery programs.

“In 2014, more people died from drug overdoses than any other year on record so this is not going away. This is only getting worse,” Pallone said.

Under the legislation, there would be more funding for state and local governments and community organizations to train first responders, doctors, pharmacists, and the general public to respond quickly and effectively to prevent overdoses. It would also make naloxone, an effective antidote to overdoses, more affordable.

“We know from what’s happening in New Jersey that whether it’s a suburban or urban area, white or black, or rich or poor, this affects everyone,” Pallone said.

The measure already has the support of the NJ Association of Mental Health and Additions Agencies and the Rutgers University Alcohol and Drug Assistance Program. Legislation to address the issue was also recently introduced in the Garden State.

The New Jersey bill (A-2183) was designed to prevent heroin overdoses in by ensuring that first responders and hospitals always have an ample supply of opioid antidotes to administer. It is sponsored by Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Northfield).

“As we work to combat the growing heroin addiction epidemic, it’s important that we do all we can to prevent tragic overdoses,” Mazzeo said in an emailed statement. “The administration of Narcan has proven highly effective in saving lives, but it’s only effective if we have adequate supplies on hand in the event of an emergency. This bill will ensure that everyone on the front line is adequately supplied with this life-saving drug.”

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.