<p>Contact: Tony Papa 646-420-7290 or Roseanne Scotti 609-610-8243</p>
Trenton— In New Jersey, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death. In response to this public health problem, Governor Christie signed the Overdose Prevention Act in May of 2013. On New Jersey’s first ever Overdose Awareness Day, advocates who supported the bill’s passage now remain focused on successful implementation of the law.
The Overdose Prevention Act encourages people to seek emergency medical assistance in overdose situations by providing limited protections from arrest and prosecution for drug possession charges. It also allows for expanded access to the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone (Narcan).
“This International Overdose Awareness Day is very special because of the enormous progress New Jersey has made in fighting overdose this past year,” said Roseanne Scotti, New Jersey State Director for Drug Policy Alliance. “We’ve seen effective overdose prevention policies embraced across the state. The policies of expanded access to naloxone and Good Samaritan protection for those who call for help are working and saving lives.”
Educating officials and members of the public about the protections guaranteed under the new law is an ongoing effort. State officials, as well as private advocates, have devoted significant resources towards implementation over the past year. Drug Policy Alliance continues distributing posters and palm cards in English and Spanish explaining the law and providing informational presentations to interested groups throughout the state.
In June, Governor Christie announced that police and EMTs throughout the state can be equipped with naloxone, building off a successful pilot program in Ocean County. First responders have already saved over 100 lives as a result. And more than 400 concerned community members have obtained naloxone in case they are in a position to help someone else in an overdose emergency. Georgett Watson runs the Overdose Prevention/Naloxone Distribution Program through South Jersey AIDS Alliance’s Oasis Drop-In Center in Atlantic City. “Peers and loved ones who witness an overdose simply want to help the victim as quickly as possible. No one wants to stand by helplessly in that kind of situation, so having naloxone on hand is both empowering and life-saving.”
Patty DiRenzo of Blackwood lost her son, Salvatore, to an overdose when he was only 26 years old. “I commend Governor Christie for proclaiming the first official Overdose Awareness Day here in New Jersey this year. As we honor the memories of loved ones we’ve lost, we continue to hope for a time when no other families have to suffer such tragedies. Implementation of the Overdose Prevention Act is helping us achieve that goal and continuing to promote awareness will save many more lives.”