New Jersey's 1st Legislative District

Senator Michael Testa

Senator Michael Testa

Testa: New Jersey Must Do More to Prevent Overdose Deaths

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Calls for Murphy to Sign Bill Ensuring Opioid Settlement Money Will be Used Solely for Addiction Prevention and Treatment

A year-and-a-half decline in life expectancy in the United States, reported by The Associated Press today, should be a wake-up call for New Jersey, where deaths from drug overdose have reached disturbing levels, Senator Michael Testa said.

Overdose deaths are up, life expectancy is down, and Sen. Michael Testa is calling on Gov. Murphy to sign legislation bolstering addiction prevention and treatment programs. (Pixabay)

An increase in fatal drug overdoses combined with COVID to drop life expectancy to 77.3 years, the lowest level in two decades, as more than 3.3 million Americans died last year. The data was announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“While the pandemic was getting all the attention, drug overdose deaths in New Jersey were increasing by 20 percent last year,” said Testa (R-1). “It looks like we have finally gotten a handle on COVID, but the preventable loss of life due to addiction continues to have a devastating effect on communities in every corner of our state. Too many people are dying. Trenton must commit to protecting residents from deadly drugs and improving access to life-saving addiction programs.”

In view of New Jersey’s ongoing plague of overdose deaths and the growing likelihood of a massive court settlement with three more opioid manufacturers that could bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the state, Testa called on Governor Murphy to immediately sign legislation that would ensure the use of the money to fight addiction and save lives.

The bill (S-3867) overwhelmingly passed both houses of the Legislature in June and now rests on the Governor’s desk awaiting action. It would establish the Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund and a 13-member Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund Advisory Council.

Under the bill, all money the state receives in an opioid settlement would be deposited in the fund and specifically dedicated and used for the purposes of supplementing substance use disorder prevention and treatment programs and services consistent with the terms of settlements made in connection with claims arising from the manufacture, marketing, distribution or dispensing of opioids.

“The reckless and irresponsible actions of some pharmaceutical companies helped fuel the opioid crisis that has claimed well more than 500,000 lives in the U.S. It is only fitting that any money the state receives from settlements would be used to help free residents from the clutches of addiction and give them their lives back,” said Testa. “The bill will lock that money in a fund for drug treatment and protect it from use for other priorities.

“Murphy should sign on the dotted line now to prevent any further delays when settlement money arrives,” Testa said.

Earlier this month, attorney generals from 15 states, including New Jersey, agreed to a $4.5 billion deal with Purdue Pharma for its role in creating the opioid crisis. The state could receive more than $110 million in the settlement.

According to published reports, three more drug companies – McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen – are nearing a deal with attorneys for states, cities and counties that could reach $26 billion.

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