The opioid crisis cuts across every segment of New Jersey society, without regard to class, race, gender, or profession. The response must be equally far-reaching.
Just as there is no single cause of the opioid crisis, there is no single solution. To address the problem, The Attorney General’s Office has adopted an all-of-the-above strategy that incorporates prevention, treatment, and enforcement efforts. In 2018, the Attorney General launched a new office—known as the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies, or “NJ CARES”—to use all available powers and authorities to fight the crisis. By deploying the Attorney General’s criminal, civil, and regulatory authority in a coordinated manner, NJ CARES is working to save lives and heal communities ravaged by opioids.
- Holding drug companies accountable. The Attorney General’s Office has brought sweeping lawsuits against the corporations and individuals most responsible for the opioid crisis, including the country’s largest opioid manufacturer, Perdue Pharmaceuticals, as well as eight members of the family that founded the company. In demanding accountability, the Attorney General’s Office has not shied away from companies in its own backyard, bringing a lawsuit against Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a wholly owned subsidiary of New Jersey’s largest company, Johnson & Johnson.
- Cracking down on the deadliest opioids traffickers. Working with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, the Attorney General’s Office has brought criminal prosecutions against the deadliest traffickers of heroin, fentanyl, and other deadly opioids. At the heart of this strategy is a focus on the illegal “mills” where these drugs are mixed and packaged for street-level distribution. Over a four-month period in 2019, for example, New Jersey law enforcement dismantled heroin mills in Harrison, Irvington, Paterson, and Trenton linked to more than 350 drug overdoses, including more than 100 deaths. At the same time, the Office’s Division of Criminal Justice has aggressively pursued those who profit from the illegal diversion of opioids, including doctors and other white-collar criminals.
- Facilitating treatment and recovery services for those in need. NJ CARES has partnered with state’s County Prosecutors to take a program that Attorney General Grewal began as the Bergen County Prosecutor and expand it statewide: “Operation Helping Hand,” an innovative initiative that diverts individuals out of the criminal justice system and into substance abuse treatment. At the same time, NJ CARES is developing a network of “Opioid Response Teams,” which serve as 24/7 teams of police officers, recovery coaches, and EMTs to help people in crisis in the most impacted areas of the state.
- Ensuring the safe and appropriate use of prescription opioids. Through the Division of Consumer Affairs, the Attorney General’s Office operates New Jersey’s Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), which tracks prescription sales of narcotic painkillers and other addictive drugs. A number of recent enhancements make it easier to keep doctors, pharmacies, and law enforcement officers informed about abuse and diversion. In cases where investigators have determined that doctors or other medical professionals were recklessly or intentionally over-prescribing opioids, the Attorney General’s Office has moved swiftly to seek revocation of those individuals of their professional licenses.
- Using data to solve problems and educate the public. The Attorney General’s Office has built a state-of-the-art electronic platform, known as the Integrated Drug Awareness Dashboard, to help law enforcement officers and other state officials track the latest developments in the state’s opioid crisis. Anonymized data has been made available to the public through a website – njcares.gov – that allows New Jersey residents to track the impact of the opioid epidemic in real time.