N.J. heroin and fentanyl deaths, 2004 to 2016. Note: Many people tested positive for both heroin and fentanyl. Graphic: NJ Advance Media

By Stephen Stirling and Luke Nozicka
4 October 2017

NEWARK (NJ Advance Media) – Four programs in New Jersey have been awarded federal grants to fight the state's opioid epidemic, a crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 7,000 people since 2012.

NJ Advance Media has learned that the State Parole Board will receive $600,000 to start a pilot program that would provide parolees with a history of opioid abuse anti-addiction medication for the first time. 

The State Parole Board grant comes after the U.S. Department of Justice announced $1.1 million in grants to the Garden State last week to develop a data-sharing network between authorities and provide assistance to people in Camden County.

"Considering the severity and death toll of the heroin, and now the fentanyl crisis, it's incumbent on us to seriously examine every possible instrument that can lead individuals to recovery," said former Gov. James McGreevey, whose non-profit, NJ Reentry Corporation, will partner with the State Parole Board. "The time for debate is over. To not offer every means of recovery is to do a disservice to those suffering from addiction in New Jersey." […]

"If somebody told me we would have heroin on every corner, in every county throughout the United States for as low as $3 a hit … I mean, it's just mind-boggling," State Parole Board Chairman James Plousis said. "Never in my career in law enforcement did I think we'd get here."

At least 1,901 people in New Jersey died from opioid overdoses last year, more than twice the number of people from the state who died in the 11 September 2001, attacks. Since 2013, deaths in the Garden State involving heroin have more than doubled while fentanyl-related deaths have spiked 2,000 percent.

In 2016, at least 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, an increase from 52,000 the year before, the Justice Department said. The majority of those deaths can be attributed to opioids, including illicit fentanyl. [more]

N.J. gets $1.7M to fight opioid epidemic's 'march of death'

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