State Senate approves two bills to bolster the battle against substance abuse

TRENTON, NJ — Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Senator Richard J. Codey that aims to ensure that substance abuse instruction in public schools incorporates the most current, evidence-based standards and practices received final legislative approval in the Senate in June.

“Schools across the state are responsible for teaching our children about drugs, their negative effects and how to avoid them,” Codey, who represents parts of Essex and Morris counties, said in a press release. “We must review what our schools are teaching our kids about substance abuse, and ensure that they are doing it in a way that is not only evidence-based but is up-to-date and can be most impactful.”

Under the bill, S-372, the Department of Education would be required to conduct a review of the Core Curriculum Content Standards in comprehensive health and physical education, in consultation with the Division of Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services, to make sure that students are receiving effective prevention education.

The DOE would also be required to issue a report on its review within 120 days of the bill’s enactment and propose any necessary revisions to the State Board of Education within 12 months of the report’s submission. The report would include methodology used, the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum standards, and the extent to which they incorporate the most recent, evidence-based practices.

“We must proactively address the issue of substance abuse among our youth and the sharp increase in heroin and prescription drug abuse across our state in recent years,” Codey said. “If we aren’t providing kids with the latest information that takes into consideration current prevention methods that are proven to work, our efforts will prove futile.”

The bill was approved by the Senate by a vote of 39-0 and the Assembly by a vote of 79-0-0. It now heads to the governor for consideration.

Additionally, legislation sponsored by Codey and Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vitale that would establish law enforcement-assisted addiction and recovery programs cleared the Senate Higher Education Committee in June.

Under the bill, S-2330, the director of the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services would be required to establish, upon the request of a municipal or county police department, law enforcement-assisted addiction and recovery programs in those departments throughout the state.

“The heroin and opiate addiction crisis is harrowing and raging in New Jersey,” Codey  said in a second release. “The addiction and recovery programs that would be established under this legislation will help those suffering get the treatment they need without fear of law enforcement action or arrest, which has often been perceived as a barrier.”

Under the bill, the director, in consultation with the attorney general, would be required to: prescribe by regulation requirements for county and municipal law enforcement departments to establish or authorize the operation of a program within their departments; develop and implement guidelines for the recruitment and training of law enforcement officers, volunteers and treatment providers to participate in the program; support and facilitate the linkage of law enforcement assisted addiction and recovery programs to facilities and programs that provide appropriate substance abuse recovery services and health care services; coordinate with law enforcement officials and program volunteers to ensure that individuals seeking to participate in the program are treated with respect, care and compassion, and are reassured that assistance will be provided; establish requirements for an individual to be eligible for participation in the program; and develop and implement procedures for determining eligibility requirements for the program.

“The war on drugs approach does not work,” Vitale, who represents parts of Middlesex County, said in the second release. “An integrated approach that involves law enforcement, health care professionals and mental health specialists working together is the best way forward to assist those who are suffering from the disease of addiction and substance abuse.”

In New Jersey, the overdose death rate related to heroin and opioid addiction is currently three times the national rate. In an effort to increase access to treatment for heroin and opioid addiction, certain law enforcement departments in New Jersey and in other jurisdictions have worked with community professionals and volunteers to provide additional support to those who need it. This bill would provide for the establishment of law enforcement assisted addiction and recovery programs in law enforcement departments throughout the state.

This second bill cleared the Senate by a vote of 36-2 and the Assembly by a vote of 72-2-4. It now heads to the governor for consideration.