Former Gov. Chris Christie called the state's opioid epidemic one of his biggest regrets as he left office.
During his last two years, the Republican governor shifted focus toward opioid addiction, and to that end spent nearly $44 million to warn residents about addiction and promote treatment services.
Christie, while in Atlantic City at Wednesday’s Morris County Republican luncheon, called addiction a “disease, not a choice,” a stance he took as governor.
The luncheon was held across the street from the 103rd New Jersey League of Municipalities conference, at which thousands of lawmakers local officials, business executives and lobbyists from across the state converged in Atlantic City for three days.
“We need to stop making a moral judgement on these people and understand that they are victims of a disease, and it’s treatable, and that we can treat and should treat it,” Christie said of those dealing with addiction.
But in the same tone, Christie faulted the Murphy administration for not putting enough focus on addressing statewide opioid addiction.
He said the issue had “gone off the front pages in New Jersey since I left” and that leaders have not been discussing it.
“And it’s shameful,” he added.
Christie, while speaking to reporters outside, was also critical of Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam’s alleged brawl early Nov. 11 at the Haven Nightclub at Golden Nugget.
“I think it just further reinforces the decision that I made and Senate President [Stephen] Sweeney made to have the state take over governance of the city,” Christie said.
Gilliam was notably absent from the League of Municipalities Mayors Box Luncheon across the street from where the conference was hosted. He was scheduled to provide opening remarks.
“The recent episodes are just another example of the way they disappoint us,” Christie said of Atlantic City’s governance. “The good news is they’re not in a position to make any major decisions anymore and won’t be for quite some time.”