TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has told lawmakers that his mission in his final year in office is to saving lives by tackling the state’s opioid drug epidemic.
Christie devoted the majority of his state of the state address Tuesday to his plan.
He promised a limit to the supply of opioid drugs doctors could prescribe and requested lawmakers pass a measure to require insurers to pay for at least six months of drug treatment.
He also will change rules to allow 18- and 19-year-olds to be considered children to cut down on waiting lists for treatment beds, and announced the launch of ReachNJ.gov or a phone help line at 1-844-Reach-NJ for people seeking help, including finding treatment centers.
State data shows nearly 1,600 people in New Jersey died from drug overdoses in 2015, an increase of about 20 percent over 2014.
Christie told the story of a state worker who attended a candlelight vigil last month to mark her son’s 10 and a half months of sobriety. Christie says that two days later, the 23-year-old man was found dead of an overdose in mom Pam Garozzo’s car.
Garozzo received a standing ovation during the address. Christie called the family “the face of the epidemic of addiction that is ravages the state and our people.”
He also took a shot at Democratic leaders who have been pushing for legalizing marijuana.
Christie’s seventh annual state of the state address to New Jersey’s Democrat-controlled Legislature comes as it is becoming increasingly clear that he won’t be leaving the Garden State for a role in the Republican administration of President-elect Donald Trump.
Christie has said he always planned to serve out his full term, which ends in 2018.
The speech also comes as the race to succeed Christie has gotten underway and as Christie’s job approval ratings have hit record lows.
Christie has said he has more room to maneuver politically because he’s term-limited and could lay out some initiatives in the address.