Aaron Kucharski, Facing Addiction's Grassroots Coordinator Blog, General Information

As a person in long term recovery from addiction since September 62003, and a New Jersey resident entrenched in grassroots advocacy since 2010, I have seen the progress that can be made in addressing addiction issues.  When elected officials set aside partisanship to work with family members, people in recovery and treatment professionals, they  find solutions and better the odds for those struggling with addiction.

This week, it was announced that Governor Chris Christie will lead the White House Opiate Task Force.  If this White House can face the opiate crisis as aggressively as Christie has in New Jersey, then this development could be promising.

According to the Surgeon General, an American dies every 19 minutes from an overdose of heroin or prescription opioids. –  Gov. Christie, 2017 State of the State Address

Governor Christie has spoken openly of why addiction is so personal for him. He lost his college roommate to a drug overdose and he has told a number of stories about several people close to him being in recovery.

Our friends are dying. Our neighbors are dying. Our co-workers are dying. Our children are dying. Every day. In numbers we can no longer ignore.  –  Gov. Christie, 2017 State of the State

In my opinion, addressing addiction in New Jersey for the Governor wasn’t just about helping save lives in Jersey communities, it was about setting an example for the rest of the country.  Governor Christie has a unique opportunity to bring his leadership around addiction issues to the national stage.

In two terms Chris Christie, with the help of the NJ legislature and advocates, has:

  • Signed into law the most aggressive health insurance protections for people seeking addiction services in the country, mandating insurance to cover six months of inpatient or outpatient
  • Expanded the Narcan program to law enforcement and family members and has trained hundreds of law enforcement officers and EMT’s. Just in 2016, there were over 10,000 Narcan deployments statewide, resulting in thousands of lives being saved from accidental overdose.
  • Embraced peer-to-peer recovery coaching for overdose victims in 11 New Jersey counties linking people in recovery to hospital programs that expand a continuum of care when people are at their most vulnerable
  • Aggressively increased treatment options in every New Jersey county for non-violent drug offenders and signed into law automatic expungement for drug court graduates
  • Expanded the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.
  • Signed the Opportunity to Compete Act, giving those with criminal records a fairer shot at employment in the job interview process
  • Signed the Good Samaritan Law, providing immunity for those calling 911 in the event of a drug overdose
  • Expanded recovery and prevention in education environments by signing into law a bill that mandates substance misuse instruction in the state core curriculum, a bill that helped open the state’s first recovery high school, and a bill that requires all state colleges that have 20 percent of students living on campus to have recovery housing and support
  • Has increased funding for addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery support in every New Jersey state budget.
  • Signed a bill that requires jails and prisons to supply medications to inmates for chronic illnesses including medically assisted treatment for those struggling with addiction
  • Reopened a correctional facility specifically to treat those incarcerated struggling with addiction
  • Accepted federal funds under the ACA to expand Medicaid so more people can access drug treatment services

No more pre-approvals. No more medical necessity reviews prior to admission by an insurance company bureaucrat. No more denials that can cost lives. Treatment first, hope first, denials last. – Gov. Christie

This is just a handful of examples of the progress that has proven to work when reaching across the aisle and listening to family members and people in recovery who have lived experiences with substance use disorders and recovery.

Christie’s efforts show that in order to address addiction we need all hands on deck. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, law enforcement, educators, doctors and hospital staff, family members, and people in recovery need to face addiction together as a preventable and treatable health issue.

Aaron Kucharski also runs a statewide advocacy program in New Jersey.


  • James Halstrum

    Contact government officials…..
    Re: Med. Weed…..and all other drugs.
    Are part of the proceeds and taxes going into addicts rehab. programs when the use occasionally becomes a gateway into stronger opioid pain and people killers?
    For an addict to take advantage of any, private or public sector, Rehab. program, is it contingent upon turning in their dealers, anonymously, as well as their drugs? = a return on the investment / cost / time of developing and implementing FREE residential, secure, standardized and monitored government detoxing and recovering programs, nationally…
    Just asking!!! Your thoughts?
    The stated desire from an addict seeking to enter a rehab program, could then be taken seriously + no predictor dealers or human trafficker allowed into the facilities/ programs.
    Not addictive? Coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, etc. are all addictive natural products = simply try quitting and you will find that even Med. and Rec. weed are undeniable addictive.
    + biased scientific research RE: Med. / Rec. pot is just that = over inflated, nothing can cure or affect all that they claim.
    Please share this with appropriate others + government officials at all levels – civic, provincial/state & federal.
    Let’s make this happen.
    Live for a positive cause ( for the kids ) or die for nothing.
    I have lost identical twin nephews to drugs in their 47th. year 6 months apart = this is being done in their memory.

  • Kim Vittetoe

    Can someone tell me where a friends son can get help immediately, he is a heroin addict and New Hope in Marlboro says he has to come in high or they won’t help him and he can’t come in until Thursday. I have saved many lives and some it was to late but to make someone wait until Thursday and be high are you kidding me. I am an EMT and can’t seem to find any answers

  • Kelly Morabito

    What about holding pharmacy wholesalers which supply a massive amount of these drugs to in most cases doctors, nursing homes, private hospitals and rehab. facilities etc that they actually own so they are triple dipping in profits? Will you address this Mr. Christie?

  • davidbecker2

    LOL- Its a terrible thing to see and have no vision. Christie failed to call for lowering prevalence of pain and for lowering addiction. He wanted someone to profit off others miseries for addiction but thought nothing of taxpayers coughing up more money for his lack of vision and his market fundamentalism. Shame on Christie who pretends to care but is unwilling to see his role in addiction and poor pain care.

  • reversechapter

    This “opioid epidemic” campaign is providing votes and money to politicians, lobbyists, and rehab clinics. The only reason I care is because I’ve seen the people who have to suffer (everything is a balance): chronic pain patients, 99% of whom take their medication as prescribed so they can function every day, are having their medicine yanked away without notice. They’ve been jumping through hoops, treated like drug addicts, guilty until proven innocent in databases and taking drug tests for over a decade – now they are being turned away by doctors who are being intimidated by the DEA.

    Gov. Christie is a food addict who is taking advantage of the most vulnerable members of his own circle of friends and family to spread false information and cause already suffering people to suffer more or commit suicide. The criminalization and demonization of drugs kills people. Individual choice and responsibility, and the limitation of government, are principles we need to fight to protect – because Marxists like Governor Christie are constantly fighting to destroy this freedom.

    • tryingtogetitright

      I am a chronic pain patient. I have been for many years due to spinal damage caused by car accidents for which I was not at fault. Not that somebody at fault shouldn’t receive treatment. Any how, Some years back I was coaxed into trying heroin to alleviate pain on particularly harder days. I screwed up for a fairly short period, but fortunately got clean pretty quickly. I still need pain medication which I do not and have never abused. My doctor knows that I used for a period and that I am clean. We have a trusting relationship. The DEA is making it so much harder for doctors to prescribe these medications. Making pharmacies change policies. Walgreens pharmacies implemented a policy that pain patients on opiates for a year or more had to provide an MRI, last I checked they were pharmacists. They also did this without warning. You can’t just rip an opiate patient off medications. They get extremely sick and can actually die during the withdrawal. And of course they are making it infinitely harder for patients. I have become disabled, I am on social security and Medicare. The DEA now requires that patients must do a urine drug screen at least once every quarter. These tests are not covered by medicare, putting more pressure on already cash strapped patients. I think if the DEA requires this they should provide a way for it to be covered. There is a stigma that comes with these medications. I’ve had people tell me that if they were me they would just throw the medicine away. It must be nice to consider that an option. i can barely walk to my toilet because of the pain. I try not to tell people about my medications anymore. I don’t need the judgement. Or the unsolicited advice from non medical people. Sorry for the novel.

      • reversechapter

        The government is actually *glamorizing* heroin use now to try and remove the stigma, but heroin use is risky today (fentanyl-lacing) and SHOULD be negatively stigmatized. Plus, they are going a step further by demonizing legal medication. They want to blame something other than drug addicts for their choices, and so pain patients are suffering. They also want to make money from lawsuits against drug companies, and gain votes. I suspect a lot of tax dollars are being diverted.

        They could easily help addicts by *decriminalizing* drugs (not locally/culturally….but federally at least). They are intentionally choosing to demonize pills instead. Here is Governor Christie’s new rehab clinic commercial, attempting to destigmatize heroin use: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMTx54GF_0o

        • George Luciano

          Who is paying for these self promoting commercials that run during prime time?

          • reversechapter

            Probably taxpayers.

        • tryingtogetitright

          I don’t see how he’s glamorizing heroin use. I think he/they are trying to lift the stigma of addiction in order to get more addicts to come in for help. Nobody wants to go somewhere and be treated like a piece of shit. When ever I go to the emergency room the nurses treat me like scum because they know that I am an addict. I have been clean for a year and a half. That doesn’t mean anything to them though. When discussing my current med list they nurses will word it as okay, you take blah blah and blah, but then it gets to my pain meds it turns into you still USE blah and blah. No bitch, I take it for a medical condition just like I take estrogen for my deficiency and my lipitor for my cholesterol.
          I do agree that they are demonizing pain medications making it harder for those of us with legit need for the medicines. My spinal surgeon told me there was more damage than they were prepared for. The could not repair the damage. The did what they could. Replaced two discs and did a fusion leaving a titanium plate in my neck. That’s just my neck, that doesn’t cover the rest of my body. What am I supposed to do for the rest of my life? The pain has been so bad that on top of many other issues including mental illnesses I have tried to kill my self. Got reeeeaaalllyy close once. I stopped breathing. What will I or the millions of patients like me do if they keep making it harder and harder for patients like me to get these medications? I don’t think suing the pharmaceutical companies will help anything.
          I’m tired and sore. I hope everything I said made sense. Not just that you agree with it, just that you could follow it. 🙂

          • reversechapter

            You make sense. We can disagree about the word “glamorize.” I understand the desire is to remove stigma, but I think that’s something for culture to decide, not government. I agree it’s wrong to stigmatize anyone, but using heroin right now is a terrible idea. There’s no way to tell if it’s heroin, or if fentanyl has been added. It’s taking a risk with your life every time you inject. For children, we might need to make things simple, and the video I linked doesn’t convey the horror of heroin addiction. A kid might watch these commercials and not comprehend the (tremendously) negative side of heroin use. I’m fine with funding local programs, but not with demonizing pills at the same time. Actually, chronic pain patients are the ones who are being stigmatized unfairly, as a direct result of this “opioid epidemic” campaign. Cancer patients are being treated like heroin addicts. The two things should be separated in statistics and in campaigns to help addicts.

            I also think people who are addicts can only recover completely if they stop blaming the substance, and almost every one of these ads seems to blame pills as a gateway drug. Studies show that even among people who *abuse* opioids (take pills illegally), only 4% transition to heroin within five years. In other words, even addicts are partial to certain drugs and certain ways of taking them. I should add that I don’t think a lot of pain patients who have been cut off are buying heroin (which has been argued). I think most are just suffering, unmedicated or under-medicated and unable to function normally. Some are killing themselves. A FEW are undoubtedly turning to heroin.

            My problem with these videos is they are essentially glossy commercials for rehab clinics using a political leader as their chief marketing officer. I don’t think government leaders should be actively pushing rehab clinics, even if they help fund local programs. I’m convinced there is corruption at the foundation of this initiative on the part of some. Tax dollars are being used to fund extremely expensive programs, when the thing that usually works for heroin addicts who want to stop is prescribing an opioid (which ANY doctor COULD do if government would stop the “battle” against drugs). It’s corruption. One day it will be uncovered.

          • reversechapter

            I’d be happy at this point if Governor Christie would just SAY SOMETHING about the need to make sure pain patients are treated properly, but he’s either stuck in the 1940’s and really believes the anti-drug crap espoused in the disinformation campaigns of that era, or he’s so focused on promoting rehab clinics that he doesn’t give a crap.

          • reversechapter

            By the way, I hope your state government recognizes these problems and they don’t make your life worse – good luck.

            I thought of one more thing I don’t know if I’ve mentioned in this thread. Pro golfer Billy Horschel’s wife recently announced a problem with alcoholism, in order to help others. There’s an article in the Times. Nowhere in the article is there a demonization of alcohol. She takes full responsibility. This is how any addiction should be handled. Trying to restrict a substance or object via government force is nonsense. The only reason to do it is because there are people making money. Yes, drug companies made money promoting the drug, but now politicians, rehab clinics, and lobbyists are trying to make money by demonizing pills and pain patients.

      • Karen Honick Ortwein

        MRIs at Walgreens??? How does an MRI show SLE (lupus)? I have it. Vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels–known as The Pain Disease)? I have it. Sjogrens Disease? Got it. Fibromyalgia? Yes I have it. My Rheumatoid arthritis might show up. My Spondylolithesis, Spondylosis, Deteriorated Disc Disease, and osteoarthritis will show on a MRI. What more do I need to have to be treated like a human rather than a dog that needs put down? Me getting high?! Yeah, in the midst of pain so great my eyes try to cross while rolling around on the floor–high??? Walgreens pharmacists are NOT doctors though they play like they are.

    • Dan Roth

      You hit it right on the head. Thanks,

  • Dan Roth

    I am sure as a former United States Attorney Governor Christie is familiar with the identities of who is behind the sale of opium poppies in the USA as well as the drugs from Central and South America brought into the USA. We know the identity of the banking institutions who are laundering the cash that is generated by this huge drug business without which the business could not function. We know what institutions the money laundering statute exempts from the reporting requirements such as publicly traded corporations (wonder why they are exempt). Shall I list the names of the people who are directly involved in the Afghan opium trade? I bet Gov. Christie knows who they are too. Care to tell us Governor? Lately we are torturing people who need opioid medications in order to function. The drugs that are killing people are the fentanyl from China, the opioids from Afghanistan distributed by the very pillars of the community. Normal narcotic pills are the least of the problem but that is where the crackdown is aimed. Why you ask? Because we do not want to interfere with these pillars and huge banking interests who launder the drug money and the illegal imports. It is easiest to harass people with licenses like doctors and pharmacists and of course patients. Do the right thing government or the day will come where you will be removed.

  • Floie

    Janet Woodcock of the FDA recently said, “These are very difficult trade-offs that our society has to make. The reason we approve these drugs is for people in pain. But we can’t ignore the epidemic on the other side.”

    Maybe they can’t ignore it, but it should be none of their business. When medicine and law enforcement mix, everyone loses. It is not the job of doctors or the FDA to be involved in monitoring or addressing criminal activities.

    It defies logic to create a policy that will effectively punish people who are in real need in order to short-circuit criminal activity. It’s just another self-defeating escalation in the dismal failure we call the War on Drugs.

    Bad laws always have consequences. In this case, the “remedy” will be far worse than the problem — doing little or nothing to stop drug abuse, but plenty to cause needless pain and suffering for people in need.

    You don’t punish patients to go after addicts or criminals. That’s a pain our society should avoid.

    Above from article: “New painful casualties of the drug war”

    All these new, mandated, restrictions on healthcare seem to be a bit of an oxymoron coming from a, Republican led, government screaming, loud and often, that the government has no place between doctor and patient. All of a sudden, the doctor who has cared for me since his father (and my lifelong doctor) retired, and saved my life twice, isn’t intelligent enough to treat chronic pain?

  • Mark A. Peterson

    As indicated in the following article, Colorado is seeing a decrease in opioid abuse through use of medical marijuana.
    I hope that the White House Opiate Task Force seriously considers medical marijuana nationwide as part of the cure..