Christie Threatens Hospitals to Improve Substance Abuse Treatment Programs
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has threatened hospitals to start producing results in substance abuse treatment programs or else face funding cuts next year.
The governor made his remarks during an opioid addiction forum held at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune. According to USA Today’s Asbury Park Press (APP), Christie was joined by Ken Sable, the medical center’s president; Leonard Campanello, Chief of Police in Gloucester, Massachusetts; Behshad Sheldon, president and CEO of Braeburn Pharmaceuticals; and Dr. Andrea Barthwell, former Deputy Director for Demand Reduction at the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Solutions for a New Way to Treat Substance Abuse Epidemic
About 200 medical professionals and law enforcement agents gathered at the forum titled ‘Solutions for a New Way Forward’. Former Governor Jim McGreevey also attended the event which was moderated by Scientific American publisher Jeremy Abbate.
The APP reports that the panelists combined telling personal stories on addiction and discussing policy proposals on fighting the epidemic. For instance, Gov. Christie retold last year’s viral story about one of his friends who was rich, successful and had a great family but lost it all because he became addicted to the opioid prescription painkiller Percocet.
Unfortunately, the friend died in a motel room when he mixed alcohol with Percocet. Christie attended the funeral and witnessed the pain the friend’s family was experiencing. He told the audience, “We can’t make these judgments anymore based on old stereotypes about who this disease affects.”
Christie also unleashed a veiled criticism to doctors who are prescribing large doses of opioid medication to their patients. He told the gathering that his daughter received 30 Percocet pills after going to the dentist to have two wisdom teeth removed. Instead, Christie took those pills away, gave her Advil, and told her to put an ice pack on her face. While it may seem harsh, the governor probably helped her avoid a drug that has contributed to the drug abuse epidemic.
According to APP, he said, “The fact is, we’ve got to get a lot smarter about what we’re doing in every aspect of this and stop with the old mores and the old thoughts.”
The main highlight of the forum was Gov. Christie’s threat to hospitals to start producing the results he expects; otherwise, they would lose $127 million in Charity Care Funding. The cuts are part of the governor’s plan to arrest the $1.1 billion budget deficit in New Jersey. His original plan is to cut $279 million for Charity Care Funding over a two-year period. Nevertheless, Christie said he would add $127 to this year’s budget in order to boost substance abuse treatment programs.
In quotes from NorthJersey.com, he said, “We’re going to have to see whether the health care system in the state just takes that money and puts it to their bottom line or whether in fact they expand access to care. What the hospitals have told me all along is, ‘Well we don’t have more access to this kind of care because your reimbursements are so awful.’ I want to see the results. And if I don’t see the results … then I’m going to have to go in another direction for the resources that the state has.”
One thing everyone can be sure of is that Gov. Christie will make good on his threat if he doesn’t see the changes he expects. Whether the medical industry will be able to deliver is an entirely different matter.