Christie to spend $200M on new substance abuse initiatives

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(AP) - Gov. Chris Christie plans to spend $200 million on new initiatives that he hopes will significantly improve the way the state approaches substance abuse treatment and prevention.

Christie told NJ.com (http://bit.ly/2fsu6uM) the money will target programs for underserved populations - the uninsured, Medicaid recipients, babies born with addiction and their mothers. He said the money will come from the budgets of eight state departments.

The Republican governor said the initiatives will put more emphasis on making sure care is geared toward sustained sobriety. That will be done by standardizing data collection and building seamless channels for holistic care for addicts through incentive-based programs that reward providers who focus on the long-term.

Christie said he plans to announce the programs in a series of events in the next few days. The term-limited governor has told his staff to look for any more loose ends that could be tied up before he leaves office in January.

"I said I don't want you to worry about money, and I want you to come back to me with a wish list," Christie said, referring to his cabinet and senior policy. "It's probably about $200 million worth of spending, but it's stuff that needs to be done."

Christie has made battling opioid abuse a centerpiece of his second term in office. He was named by President Donald Trump to chair a commission tasked with combating drug addiction and the opioid crisis.

Proposed spending in the new initiatives includes establishing an incentive-based treatment program for people without insurance or on Medicaid, providing housing and support for adults with substance abuse issues and programs supporting opioid-addicted mothers, their babies and broader families.

Christie also said he hopes that New Jersey will soon get a waiver from the Medicaid provision that bars the federal health program from covering inpatient treatment at most facilities.

"Once we get the waiver, I'll be very public about it.  And I think there will be lots of other governors who, if they haven't applied for the waiver already, will," he said. "That will open up, literally, tens of thousands of beds across the country."

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