Murphy wants new opioid spending but not for commercials

TRENTON, N.J. - Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday he wants $100 million in new spending to address New Jersey's opioid crisis while shutting down the prospect of any Chris Christie-style public service announcements to promote substance abuse treatment.

Murphy, a Democrat, outlined the budget proposal Tuesday at the Rescue Mission of Trenton, a recovery house for poor residents and those with drug addiction that Christie, the Republican former governor, also visited throughout his two terms.

"They need a government that understands that recovery doesn't end when someone walks out of treatment and back into society," Murphy said of people with opioid addictions.

The state has spent about $90 million of the roughly $200 million Christie pledged last year on the crisis, the governor said, pointedly saying that no new funds would be spent on public service announcements.

Christie's administration set aside more than $40 million for an ad campaign featuring the governor in TV and radio spots last year, inviting people with substance abuse problems to seek help.

"I think if you're a television production firm you're going to be disappointed because that's not the way we're going to go," Murphy said.

Murphy said of the $100 million, $56 million would go toward expanding access to services, including outpatient treatment. He also outlined $31 million that would go toward "social risk factors," including providing money for housing for high-risk families. Thirteen million dollars would go toward supporting technology and data-sharing infrastructure, like helping treatment centres transition to electronic health records, Murphy said.

Barrett Young, chief operating officer of the Rescue Mission, said it was too early to tell for certain whether Murphy's proposal, if adopted, would help, hurt or not change the state's efforts on opioid addiction treatment.

He declined to weigh in on whether Christie's public service announcements were effective but said as long as those who need help can get it, it's a good thing.

"As long as there is money for treatment, which equals access to the folks we're serving, I'm OK however that is," Young said.

Christie left office this year after dedicating much of his final year in office to the epidemic, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says has killed more than 42,000 in 2016. That was more than any other year on record.

Christie also led President Donald Trump's panel on opioid addiction. The Republican president declared a national health emergency last year because of the crisis.

Murphy's proposal comes as his $37.4 billion budget begins moving through the Democrat-led Legislature. A new budget must be in place by June 30.

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