Gov. Chris Christie made fighting New Jersey’s opioid abuse epidemic his top issue last year.

The state has spent an estimated $200 million to expand substance abuse treatment programs, including $42 million on an advertising campaign for the Reach NJ program, which offers help to those addicted and to their families and friends.

When Christie steps down as governor on Tuesday, there is uncertainty about whether these efforts will continue. And if they do, whether they will be scaled back.

Gov.-elect Phil Murphy has not discussed how he intends to proceed on the opioid abuse issue, and for that reason there is an undercurrent of concern among some anti-drug groups.

Angelo Valente, the executive director of the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey, said while Christie has been a leader on this issue, not only in New Jersey but throughout the country, “we’re very confident that Gov.-elect Murphy will also be very supportive of efforts to be able to support those that are in need, and efforts to help prevent our state from experiencing any more devastation as a result of the opioid epidemic.”

“We anticipate to be able to be working with him and his administration because we believe this is an issue that obviously impacts people throughout the state of New Jersey.”

He said the Reach NJ campaign has been a huge success because what it’s done “is to raise awareness on the issue, and that is really a crucial component of dealing with the epidemic.”

Deborah Wentz, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, pointed out that “a paid ad campaign that captures time slots obviously gets the message out more strongly because it’s aired on a repeated basis.”

She added that Reach NJ has been “an excellent tool in fighting the opioid epidemic.”

Wentz also said she’s very confident that the incoming administration with Murphy at the helm “recognizes how very critical the treatment of addictions and mental illness is.”

Valente pointed out the Reach NJ program has become an invaluable resource because “first and foremost we have to look at prevention, and also simultaneously we have to look at treatment for those individuals that need treatment.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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