Gov. Murphy signs 6 bills to help prevent opioid overdoses, addiction

More than 3,000 New Jersey residents lost their lives to an opioid overdose in 2020.
There is a compassionate and what is proving to be an effective way to slow down this type of drug use that is underway with the help of “harm reduction centers.”
The center on Sunset Avenue in Asbury Park is one of seven centers in the state. The people and products they provide inside are saving lives.
"We're not judging anybody for their choices. We're not forcing anyone to make decisions, but offering people services to meet them where they're at,” says Caitlin O’Neill, the director of the Harm Reduction Coalition.
O’Neill says that these services include access to sterile syringes for those who inject drugs, a place to dispose of them, and free Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan.
O’Neill was once a drug user herself. She says that two major events in her life changed that. One being her partner overdosed and died.
“I felt a real lack of compassion from people whose narrative was, ‘Get clean or die,’” she says.
And then she found the Harm Reduction Center in Newark which provided that compassion. It gave her free and clean needles, Naloxone to carry around and eventually the determination to stop using.
O’Neill was recognized for her work by Gov. Phil Murphy as he signed six bills into law on Friday that will help these facilities and those living with addiction. One of those measures will make it easier for anyone to get Naloxone, which is known as the overdose antidote. Another will see health insurers cover those purchases.
“We have got to bring these fatalities down. We are so far from the end zone on this, folks. But I think the path we are on is the right path,” Murphy said.
O'Neill says that for someone like her who has walked that path, harm reduction may also be the antidote that could save a life.
Naloxone is available without a prescription, but it can cost as much as $120 for a dose.
More than 3,000 New Jersey residents lost their lives to an opioid overdose in 2020.