- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will convene a drug recovery conference later this month in Newark aimed at reducing the stigma associated with addiction.

The Sept. 30 forum will bring together advocacy groups, individuals who have battled addiction, and organizations involved in treatment work, according to the governor’s office.

The event, to be held at Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church, will be co-hosted by Pastor Joe A. Carter and feature a series of moderated discussions, said Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for the governor.

“The whole idea here is to bring together a broad cross-section of people who are involved in these efforts and unite them on a shared mission of education, awareness, ending the stigma around addiction and treatment, and ultimately increasing broader awareness of these issues. Just as the governor has been advocating for years,” Roberts said.

Christie has made drug rehabilitation one of his signature issues as he considers a run for president in 2016. This week, he joined House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and former Gov. Jim McGreevey at the ribbon-cutting of a prisoner re-entry center, and said he believed in giving low-level drug offenders second chances.



In a June interview with The Associated Press, Christie said that, besides increasing treatment options, another aim of his is to help change attitudes so that people with substance abuse problems would be more likely to admit them and accept help.

“I think it’s my job to try to educate the public and to remove the stigma that’s attached to a disease,” said Christie, who said at the time he didn’t expect change to happen overnight.

“I mean, that’s a long-term process. But I think the more you talk about it and acknowledge the stigma, the better chance you have to being able to reduce it,” he said.

The announcement comes the same day a bipartisan group of state lawmakers announced a package of 21 bills aimed at curbing heroin and prescription drug abuse in the state. Among other things, the bills would create a statewide opioid law enforcement coordinating task force, require health care practitioners to warn patients about addiction risks before writing prescriptions, and allocate more money for substance abuse prevention.

Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Chair Joseph Vitale said the bills were the product of a year-and-a-half of work and the cost would be in the “tens of millions” annually.

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Associated Press writer Geoff Mulvihill contributed to this report from Trenton.

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