The number of prescriptions for opioid painkillers written in some South Jersey counties increased between 2015 and 2010, bucking the national trend of a decline in opioid prescription rates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. Cumberland and Cape May counties saw an increase in opioid prescription rates over that period, while the prescription rate in Atlantic, Camden, Salem, Gloucester and Burlington counties remained stable, but much higher than the prescription rate in North Jersey, the CDC found. The report, part of a nation-wide review of opioid prescription rates published last week, showed that South Jersey has some of the highest opioid prescription rates in the nation. The CDC report found some socio-economic characteristics were associated with a higher rate of opioid prescription: “a larger percentage of non-Hispanic whites; higher rates of uninsured and Medicaid enrollment, lower educational attainment; higher rates of unemployment; micropolitan status; more dentists and physicians per capita; a higher prevalence of diagnosed diabetes, arthritis, and disability; and higher suicide rates. Together, these factors explain approximately 32% of the variation in the amount of opioids prescribed at the county-level.”
Atlantic County will next year slash its spending on individual and group counseling for people in outpatient drug and alcohol detox programs but increase its spending on halfway houses, according to a new request for proposals. The county, which spends more than half a million dollars on alcohol and drug abuse treatment each year, has money set aside from the New Jersey Division of Addiction Services and the Atlantic County Division of Public Health. The total funding for drug and alcohol abuse services will be $560,756 in 2017, up slightly from $547,984 this year. The bulk of that money will be spent on providing short-term residential and inpatient detoxification services, according to the RFP. Spending on halfway house services will rise to $40,000 in 2017 from $30,000 this year, while spending on outpatient counseling will slip to $12,000 from $25,500 this year.
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The skyrocketing cost of Narcan—the lifesaving opioid antidote used to revive people in overdose—is impacting budgeting decisions for at least one South Jersey police department. Pleasantville Chief Sean Riggin said the cost of a dose of Narcan has increased between 200% and 400% for his department (depending on how you estimate), while at the same time the number of doses the city uses has spiked. “We had to put it in as a line-item in the budget this year,” he said. “Narcan is staggeringly expensive.”
Riggin sat down with Breaking AC and Route 40 yesterday at Gary’s Restaurant in Pleasantville for an interview that covered a range of topics.
“Our budget is not increasing for next year, and our Narcan cost is, so other things are going to get cut,” he said.
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The Buena Vista Township council is set to vote Monday on a resolution to support a bill in the state legislature that would prohibit doctors from prescribing more than seven-days’ worth of opioid painkillers the first time they prescribe the drug to a patient. Senate bill S-2035, introduced in April, is sponsored by Shirley Turner, Robert Gordon and Jennifer Beck. It requires that a medical practitioner “shall not issue an initial prescription for an opioid drug…in a quantity exceeding a seven-day supply.” Crazy to think, but being prescribed a month’s worth of dangerous narcotics is not an uncommon problem! You can track the bill in Trenton here.
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Frank LoBiondo, R-NJ second district, on Wednesday voted in favor of establishing an inter-agency task force to assess pain medication prescription practices. The bill, supported by representatives from both parties, will now proceed to the Senate. Opioid prescription and addiction is a huge issue in South Jersey and Route 40 hopes to follow this topic closely.