Overdose deaths in New Jersey declined in 2014
New Jersey finally saw a drop in the number of overdose deaths last year. That news was delivered by the state's top law enforcement official. The chairman of the State Senate Health Committee said he was encouraged, but not satisfied.
"After a three-year period between 2010 and 2013 in which overdose deaths climbed significantly each year finally they declined by more than 13 percent in 2014," Acting State Attorney General John Hoffman said. "Obviously there is still a very serious problem out there and there is still much work to be done."
Prescription drop boxes and aggressive law enforcement measures have factored into the drop in overdose deaths. The "Good Samaritan" law which allows people to report a possible overdose without fear of being arrested themselves has also helped, but the big key, Hoffman said, was giving police officers a life-saving antidote.
"I believe equipping our law enforcement officers with Narcan has been a very important factor in this hopeful trend," Hoffman explained.
The 'Good Samaritan" law and the bill to allow officers to carry Narcan were both spearheaded, by state Sen. Joe Vitale, D-Woodbridge. He said treating addicts is still crucially important.
"Even when we're able to bring someone back from an overdose there needs to still be a meaningful intervention for them. This is a disease like cancer, like heart disease, like diabetes and we should treatment it the same way," Vitale said.
The senator agreed with Hoffman that more work remains before the state makes serious headway in substantially and consistently reducing overdose deaths.
"It's the number-one cause of preventable death far outpacing car accidents," Vitale said.