Gov. Chris Christie has announced a series of recommendations made by a special task force to slow down and stop the opioid abuse epidemic in the Garden State.

On Tuesday afternoon the Governor’s Task Force on Drug Abuse Control — formed last winter after Christie declared opioid addition to be a public health crisis —released a report with 40 recommendations involving education, prevention, intervention, treatment, recovery and reentry.

Christie said moving forward, the report will serve as a blueprint for what needs to be done in New Jersey and across the nation, to combat the opioid abuse epidemic.

That includes revising EMT guidelines, and permitting first-responders in New Jersey to carry 4 milligrams of Naloxone, the heroin antidote drug used to revive overdose victims, instead of just 2 milligrams. The treatment is also known by its commercial name, Narcan.

“First-responders have reported to us that 4 milligrams of Narcan is needed to counteract the effect of fentanyl, which is becoming more and more prevalent and is stronger than normal opioids,” he said. Fentanyl is dozens of times more potent than heroin. “We were unnecessarily losing lives because EMT’s were not fully equipped with the full dosage they would need to deal with fentanyl.”

Christie said several recommendations made by the task force are already being implemented, including the promotion of a program that trains primary care physicians to screen for signs of opioid abuse in their patients, and to refer those who need help to treatment.

Another recommendation being implemented will require health care facilities to report instances of substance-exposed infants, so safe-care programs can be developed and implemented.

Christie said the task force is also recommending expansion of the state recovery coach program.

“In addition to meeting people in the emergency rooms following an overdose, state-funded recovery programs will now have coaches working with individuals post-treatment, and post-incarceration," Christie said.

Another recommended program calls for medical examiner offices across the state to get additional funding for expanded training and toxicology testing.

“These initiatives allow for faster, more accurate data to inform law enforcement and state partners about the dangerous substances that are killing our citizens," Christie said.

Christie said all of these efforts are important, but the opioid abuse epidemic isn’t going to magically go away any time soon, and the stigma associated with drug addition is still a problem.

“I think there is some progress being made, but it’s small and it’s not nearly what we’re going to need to try to get people to come out from the shadows to do what needs to be done on the issue," he said.

Christie said even with all of these efforts being made, “my guess is we’re going to see deaths go up over the next couple of years rather than go down."

"I think we’re on the wrong side of the curve here. We’re just combating this at a time when it’s becoming exponentially more prevalent," he said.

But Christie said he hopes to see the rate of addiction slow, and then decline.

"This thing is going downhill quickly, and stopping it is going to take a long time and a lot of effort.” he said.

The governor indicated he would share the recommendations of the task force report with his federal anti-drug commission, to see what recommendations might be included in that group’s final report, to be issued at the beginning of next month.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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