New Jersey’s Office of the Attorney General has created the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator of Addiction Response and Enforcement Strategies, or NJ CARES.
The move was announced by recently appointed state Atty. Gen. Gurbir Grewal during a keynote address at Seton Hall School of Law on Thursday. NJ CARES will be headed by Sharon Joyce, acting director of the attorney general office’s consumer affairs division and deputy director of the attorney general’s office law division.
NJ CARES will be involved in issues involving opioid addiction and related public education, and will help to identify possible preventive action and solutions to problems such as “doctor shopping” and the overprescribing of addictive pain killers. It also will oversee the creation of 24-hour Opioid Response Teams involved in overdose-response schemes and data-network sharing among state agencies.
The new office plans a website dedicated to providing the public with a real-time snapshot of the state’s opioid crisis and a breakdown of how each county is being affected. The site will include weekly updates on suspected fatal drug-overdoses and deployments of the life-saving overdose antidote naloxone and will post quarterly reports on the number of opioid prescriptions being written, and other data related to the opioid crisis.
Additionally, NJ CARES plans to launch an Interagency Drug Awareness Dashboard. The information-sharing exchange will detail opioid-related data between state agencies, including data from the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program, law enforcement data on heroin, fentanyl and other opioid-related arrests, naloxone administrations, fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses, and treatment information. The dashboard will be funded in part by a $600,000 federal grant.
NJ CARES also plans enhancements to the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program including an electronic database to track information on prescription sales of narcotic painkillers and other habit-forming drugs. The proposed enhancements include adding the anticonvulsant medication Gabapentin, a drug known to enhance the effects of opioids, to the list of drugs tracked by the PMP; expanding access to the PMP database to mental health providers; and hiring a medical consultant to assist in reviewing the PMP data to identify potential cases over-prescribing opioids.
“The opioid crisis is unprecedented in its scope and devastating in its intensity, and our response must be equally broad in scope and intensity,” Grewal said. “NJ CARES will combine all the relevant authority and resources within the Department of Law and Public Safety to unleash a full attack on this deadly epidemic.”
Joyce told the audience that “The programs we’re announcing today create partnerships throughout the state that will make us all stronger, better informed, and more capable of defeating the scourge of addiction.”