Governor Murphy Signs Legislation to Combat Opioid Crisis

TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy today signed three pieces of legislation addressing the opioid crisis. A3292, A4744, and SJR35 will strengthen opioid prescription label requirements, ensure greater access to Medicated-Assisted Treatment (MAT) benefits for Medicaid recipients, and spread awareness of opioid abuse through the designation of October 6th as “Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day”.

“The opioid crisis has had a devastating impact on our communities, robbing us of too many of our friends, family members, and loved ones,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “This legislation continues our work to combat the opioid crisis by ensuring that there are warning labels outlining the risk of opioid medications, expanding access to the treatment that so many need, and raising awareness of just how easy it is to become addicted to opioids.”

“The key to knocking out opioid abuse in our communities and saving lives often starts in the medicine cabinet, which is why education and clear warnings about the risks associated with opioid-based drugs are paramount to winning this battle. But people also need fair access to treatment when they fall victim to addiction,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver. “These new laws will help to ensure that people are aware of the risks while helping break down the systemic barriers associated with accessing treatment.”

Under A3292, containers for prescription opioid medications dispensed in New Jersey will be required to have a warning label or sticker describing the risk of opioid medications. The Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety, working with the Department of Health, will specify by rule or regulation where the warning sticker or label is to be affixed and the specific language to be included on the warning sticker.

Primary sponsors of the bill include Assemblymembers John Armato, Vincent Mazzeo, and Valerie Vainieri Huttle; and Senators Kristin Corrado and Joseph Lagana.

A4744 requires the Department of Human Services to ensure that the provision of benefits for certain types of medication assisted treatment to eligible persons under the Medicaid program are provided without the imposition of any prior authorization, providing that the treatments are prescribed or administered by licensed medical practitioners.

Primary sponsors of the bill include Assemblymembers Louis D. Greenwald, John Armato, and Valerie Vainieri Huttle; and Senators Joe Vitale and Joe Cryan. 

SJR35 designates October 6th of each year as “Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day” in order to raise awareness about the dangers of – and the link between – opioid abuse and heroin addiction.

Primary sponsors of the bill include Senators Loretta Weinberg and Kristin Corrado; and Assemblymembers Valerie Vainieri Huttle, John Armato, and Vincent Mazzeo.

“I am delighted that the Governor and Legislature continue to provide us important tools to combat the opioid epidemic. Today’s action builds on the work NJ Human Services did earlier this year to lift Medicaid prior authorization requirements for opioid addiction treatment medication by codifying our policy in state law. We are glad to see this smart step to help ensure that our actions cannot readily be reversed by future administrations,” said Department of Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson. “Removing barriers to opioid addiction treatment, increasing knowledge of the risks of addiction and overdoses, and focusing attention on the need to combat this epidemic represent important tools in our shared fight to save lives.”

“These measures are pivotal for New Jersey to get ahead of its opioid epidemic,” said Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “At a basic level, folks need to know if their medications have opioids in them and need access—without barriers—to get the treatment they need. I am also excited about a day to collectively come together to address this epidemic, which has stolen too many lives from our communities and families.”

“Medically assisted treatment has proven to be one of the most effective ways of treating addiction. It is important that the treatment is provided as quickly as possible so patients can get the drugs removed from their systems and get on the road to recovery. Doing away with the preauthorization requirement will help break down the barriers to timely treatment for Medicaid recipients so they can escape from the destructive grip of addiction,” said Senator Joe Cryan. “We are fighting an opioid epidemic that is ruining lives, destroying families and causing an alarming number of overdose deaths and this is one of the actions we can take.”

“Research and experience have shown that medication assisted treatment is an effective treatment for substance abuse disorders, including opioid addiction,” said Senator Joe Vitale. “It can make the difference in the early, critical stages of breaking addiction and allowing those in treatment to enter recovery. It can ease suffering and save lives and I am glad to see this signed into law today.”

“The opioid crisis effects every person in this state and must be faced head-on,” said Senator Loretta Weinberg. “We have to address the crisis at every level and on all fronts if we are going to genuinely see opioid abuse be reduced. I am glad we, as a state, are taking this issue on with the seriousness and attention it demands.” 

“The opioid epidemic is a scourge, killing countless people and hurting families all across the country,” said Senator Joseph Lagana. “We will now be able to warn people of the horrible dangers of taking opioids on the prescription bottles. People have a right to know if they ingest a potentially dangerous substance.”

"Raising awareness is an important step that will help us to battle the crisis of opioid abuse that's plaguing New Jersey and save lives," said Senator Kristin Corrado. "We're ensuring that individual patients who are prescribed opioids are warned of the potential danger of addiction. On a larger scale, we're going to highlight the vast scope of this disease to reduce the stigma of talking about it or seeking help. These efforts will work in tandem to educate patients and the general public about this growing problem."

Regarding A3292:

“We have warning labels on just about all medications these days,” said Assemblyman John Armato. “In the middle of this epidemic, we need to utilize every tool in our arsenal to increase awareness and education about the effects of opioid abuse. Adding a warning sticker to all opioid medications is an easy, cost-effective concept that can save lives. In 2019 in New Jersey, it’s sadly an oddity to know someone who hasn’t in some way been touched by the ongoing epidemic.”

“Opioids are highly addictive, and overdoses are often fatal,” said Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo “We have an obligation to ensure patients and their families are advised of the risks associated with them, so we can continue to battle this epidemic in New Jersey.  Overdoses are killing more people than ever before, and this is a step toward preventing more tragedies.”

This new law is plain common sense as we fight this epidemic,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle. “We have warning labels on so many products, many of which are far less dangerous than opioids. The more information and warning we can give people, the better.”

Regarding A4744:

“When it comes to the treatment of people suffering from opioid addiction, every moment matters,” said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald. “Like any disease, it must be treated in order for a patient to recover. With this new law, we’re confirming via statute that Medicaid recipients will be able to receive critical treatment when needed and begin their road to recovery. To truly fight this opioid epidemic, we must break down treatment and access barriers for everyone.”

“Research has increasingly shown that medication assisted treatment can be the most effective treatment for substance abuse disorders like opioid addiction,” said Assemblyman John Armato. “It helps to ease withdrawal symptoms and prevents patients from feeling the effects of any opioids taken during withdrawal. In this way, the treatment helps patients overcome what can otherwise be tremendous challenges in the process. We have to make sure people who desperately need this treatment have access to it in a timely manner, which is exactly what this bill does.”

“If someone suffering from substance abuse decides to get help, it’s critically important that they are treated as soon as possible. By getting prior preauthorization it can delay treatment for several days, which may not be enough time to save someone’s life,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle. “If we can provide a simpler avenue towards effective treatment, we open doors to recovery for people whose lives are greatly at risk.”

Regarding SJR35/AJR95:

“By nature, prescription opioids, like Oxycodone and Percocet, are addictive. Unfortunately, for many the addiction doesn’t stop when the prescription ends,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle. “Being a cheaper and more easily obtained alternative, many turn to heroin. About half of the New Jerseyans in drug treatment centers suffer from heroin or opioid addictions making it an alarming epidemic. That is what makes this resolution imperative. It’s the best preemptive approach to combating severe rises in opioid and heroin abuse.”

“The permanent designation of October 6th as “Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day” will spur more educational, community-based awareness programs” said Assemblyman John Armato. “The legislation stresses the need to educate more than our health care professionals and community leaders. It seeks to impress greater need for grassroots programs that inform families, friends and neighbors. Tackling this problem starts with understanding it better at all levels within our community.”

“Allowing the short-term medical benefits of opioids to overshadow their long-term effects has impacted the well-being of people throughout New Jersey,” said Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo. “It is necessary, now more than ever, to impress the urgency of this opioid crisis we are facing. Despite a significant amount of legislative work being done to tackle the problem, people and communities remain at the heart of the solution. With this resolution we are taking the right steps toward raising the needed awareness.”