- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 11, 2017

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Gov. Chris Christie wants to reorganize a $1.2 billion agency in charge of mental health and addiction services.

The reorganization - which the Republican governor said will take place within 60 days - is his latest effort to combat widespread opioid drug addiction. The changes will eliminate bureaucracy and improve health care, he said.

Lawmakers who chair committees on the state’s Human Services and Health department said Monday they intend to hold public hearings on the reorganization proposal, NJ.com (https://bit.ly/2uMUHJ2) reported.

State law requires the governor to give the legislature 60 days’ notice before reorganizing government functions. Lawmakers also can block the proposal by passing a resolution in both the Assembly and Senate.

Christie intends to transfer the agency from the Human Services department’s jurisdiction to the Health department.

The health department has little operational experience, said Democratic State Sen. Joseph Vitale, who represents Middlesex County. The decision needs to be vetted, Assemblywoman Valerie Vaineri Huttle (D-Bergen) said.

State Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett said all of the employees from the mental health and addictions division will move to her department, so the agency will still have the same leadership.

In the 16-page reorganization plan, Christie wrote that by giving chief responsibility for the agency to the health department, addiction will be better treated as a health care issue.

The plan originally was released on the eve of what became a three-day state government shutdown due to a disagreement on the state budget.

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