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COMMENTARY: Philip Murphy is man of real policies with no grandstanding

In his most recent and final State of the State Address on Jan. 10, Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) focused on the opioid epidemic that plagues our state and many others. The issue is very close to Christie’s heart, as he personally has lost friends to opioid addiction and seen many others struggle through addiction and survive. He has decided as of Feb. 8 that during his last year in office,  he will launch a $1 million anti-addiction public awareness campaign targeting New Jersey’s youth through the use of advertisements in television and other media. While combating opioid abuse is an issue for which Christie definitely deserves bipartisan support, it is questionable whether his prescribed course of action is enough to deal with the extremely complicated issue of opioid abuse. Public awareness by itself is not going to prevent drug addiction or to treat those who are already addicted.

Some, such as NJ Spotlight reporter Lilo Stanton and many Democratic members of our state legislature, believe that Christie’s opioid awareness campaign is nothing more than a cynical attempt to restore his legacy after a scandal-ridden second term and a governorship that has had muted or even negative effects on our state’s economy, schools and residents.

In fact, Christie’s current plans for an anti-opioid advertisement campaign seems markedly similar to his “Stronger than the Storm” advertisement campaign from 2013, which promoted New Jersey’s tourism industry but also raised Christie’s profile in the year of his re-election campaign. He then proceeded to win re-election by a landslide, in large part because the people of the state believed he had done a great job leading the state through the crises during and after Superstorm Sandy. Advertising campaigns like these, especially in gubernatorial election years, are partisan grandstanding of the highest order. They achieve very little but increase the governor’s popularity regardless.

When Christie’s Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno is the frontrunner in the Republican gubernatorial primary later this year, it is not unreasonable to suspect the current anti-opioid campaign will be used for a similar purpose.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Philip Murphy is above such petty and selfish grandstanding. Murphy has stated again and again that he cares more about taking actions that will benefit the people of this state, especially the next generation of New Jerseyans, than he does about winning future elections. He has decided that if he is elected, he will pursue much more expansive policies that will prevent people from becoming addicted to opioids while treating those who are already addicted. His is a multifaceted approach, including six major policy actions. With the cooperation of our state’s legislature and executive, anything is possible.

The first is the use of state, federal, and private-sector resources to increase access to drug treatment facilities. There are currently not enough drug treatment beds in New Jersey to meet the needs of our residents, which results in many addicts not receiving help until after they have been arrested. The second policy action is to require New Jersey-based health insurers to cover Medication-Assisted Treatment, a comprehensive and effective outpatient treatment regimen that includes medication, counseling and support from the addict’s family and friends. The third is to establish a seven-day limit on initial opiate prescriptions, as opioids can become addictive after just a few days and reducing the initial prescription size can prevent overdoses.

The fourth is to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to reduce the cost of Narcan, a life-saving drug which has the ability to reverse overdoses so that it can be available to emergency responders statewide. The fifth is a public awareness campaign about opioid addiction prevention, which Murphy will create and maintain with the help of schools and community centers. The sixth and final facet of Murphy’s plan to attack opioid abuse is to expand support systems for those who overdose by relying on recovery experts who are former addicts themselves to help others who are struggling.

Murphy understands that there are no simple solutions to problems like the opioid epidemic. For this issue and many others that Christie has failed to solve or actually made worse, Murphy will take the time to understand the issues and then take thoughtful steps to rectify them. He is New Jersey’s way forward, and he will be a governor who has our back.

Sandeep Patankar is a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

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