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President’s View: Bad Medicine

In most venues, rock star Jon Bon Jovi and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would be considered an odd couple. But in battling drug addiction and unnecessary deaths, they are kindred spirits. In fact, after his daughter’s drug problem became public, Bon Jovi joined forces with Governor Christie to call attention to this growing problem.

With more than 259 million opioid prescriptions written in the United States in 2012, the issue is truly a national emergency. The situation in New Jersey is such that Governor Christie used the platform afforded by his “State-of-the-State Address” to call attention to this issue and demand action to stem the scourge of opioid addiction in the Garden State.

“I want people to understand that drug abuse is not a moral failing,” said Governor Christie. “It’s a disease and we don’t talk about it that way. I don’t want families being unwilling to seek treatment because they’re ashamed to talk about it. I don’t want individuals who are in the throes of the disease to be unwilling to come forward and ask for help because they’re ashamed of how people may judge them.”

Speaking at the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey’s (CIANJ’s) Jan. 26, 2017, Healthcare Roundtable, New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Kathleen Bennett explained that more than 1,600 deaths in New Jersey were the result of opioid addiction—two times the national average.

Insurance companies and whatever becomes of the Affordable Care Act will be called upon to create access to the appropriate patient care and treatment for opioid addiction, and will be asked to accommodate the growing number of addicts who need help. Physicians will also have to evaluate how much pain medication to prescribe at one time, depending on the patient and the medical diagnosis.

The New Jersey State Senate and Assembly are considering legislation that would “require health insurers regulated by the state to cover inpatient and outpatient treatment for opioid addiction for up to six months,” reports News 12 New Jersey. “The bills would also limit initial opioid prescriptions to a five-day supply”—not including “cancer and chronic pain patients and for end-of-life care.”

Chronic pain is a particularly vexing issue for veterans, the subject of this month’s COMMERCE cover story, “Honoring Service and Sacrifice: Caring for America’s Veterans.” According to a new analysis of the National Health Interview Survey by the lead epidemiologist at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health,

“American veterans experience higher prevalence of pain and more severe pain than nonveterans, with young and middle-aged veterans suffering the most.”

This survey provides the first national estimate of severe pain associated with painful health conditions in veterans and nonveterans and underscores the importance of sustaining efforts to monitor and manage pain among veterans. This exposure to pain makes the veterans population more at risk for opioid addiction, and thus every initiative needs to make sure veterans are included in outreach efforts and any expanded access to drug treatment.

The opioid epidemic is widespread and causing needless loss of life among men and women, rich and poor, employed and unemployed, and veterans and nonveterans. The business community is not immune to this issue, and CIANJ is in support of the state and federal efforts to curb what is a preventable threat to a long and successful life.

Our co-workers, friends and family deserve a better future, free of addiction— including a second chance if they need help—and we want them to see our open arms, appropriate medical care and moral support when they look in the mirror. We are capable of doing better on this issue, and we must answer Governor Christie’s call to do something about opioid addiction before we lose someone we know and love.

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