- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey lawmakers have unveiled 21 bills aimed at curbing heroin and prescription drug abuse.

Sen. Joseph Vitale, a Democrat who chairs the state Senate’s health committee, said the state needs treatment, education and prevention efforts that seek to curb addiction to heroin and opiates. Vitale said he is working with Gov. Chris Christie’s administration on the legislation. He also says the cost of all the bills could be in the “tens of millions” of dollars annually.

Some of the issues they’re considering:

TREATMENT PROGRAMS

Issue: Addicts often cannot get into treatment programs.

Bill: Would require certain health benefit plans to provide addiction treatment when it’s deemed “medically necessary.” Assemblyman Herb Conaway said that this measure could face opposition from the insurance industry. Another measure would require the state to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates for treatment providers.

Issue: It can be hard for patients to know how effective treatment centers are.

Bill: Would require the state government to provide rankings of substance-abuse treatment providers.

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PRESCRIPTION MEDICINES

Issue: Opiate addictions often start with prescribed medicine.

Bills: Would require doctors to inform patients - and the parents of minors - of the addictive nature of any drugs they prescribe. Additional bills would require pharmacies and doctors to tell patients how to dispose of unused medicines safely. Another bill would require physicians to participate in the existing state prescription monitoring program intended to identify those who prescribe opiates frequently and also patients who seek prescriptions to the drugs from multiple doctors.

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ROAD TO RECOVERY

Issue: College can be a particularly difficult place for students who are recovering from addictions.

Bills: Would require four-year public higher education institutions to provide a housing program for those recovering from substance abuse. Such programs are already available at the New Brunswick and Newark campuses of Rutgers University and at William Paterson University.

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