BRICK TWP, NJ – Today, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) was joined by Brick Township Mayor John Ducey, Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato, health professionals, advocates and New Jerseyans in recovery for a roundtable discussion on the heroin and opioid addiction crisis in New Jersey and how the Affordable Care Act has helped expand treatment for individuals battling addiction across our nation.

“The key to finding a long-term solution to the opioid crisis is by implementing a holistic approach that includes all levels of government, just as we are doing today,” said Sen. Booker.  “Repealing the ACA would have significantly impeded efforts to battle this crisis and stripped access to treatment for those who need it most.  Although we were victorious this week in defending healthcare for millions, we must remain vigilant in strengthening the ACA and continue to expand treatment options to New Jerseyans battling the opioid epidemic.” 

Sen. Booker is advocating for an expansion of the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program to include Ocean County, which has experienced a sharp rise in both heroin and opioid use and trafficking.  The designation, which Sen. Booker successfully advocated for in Monmouth County last year, will allow Ocean County to receive Federal resources to further the coordination and development of drug control efforts among Federal, state, local law enforcement officials. 

According to NY/NJ HIDTA, in 2015 Ocean County had the second highest incidence of heroin-related deaths in the state, due in large part to the large influx of potent heroin laced with toxic adulterants, including fentanyl.

“The fight against opioid abuse and addiction is larger than any one individual, one family or one community and the fight cannot be won by going it alone.  It is going to take a unified front that includes law enforcement, government, faith based organizations, families, friends and neighbors,” said Brick Township Mayor John Ducey.  “I want to thank Senator Booker for his leadership and commitment to this fight.”

“The current heroin and opioid epidemic is something I never could have imagined throughout my career at the DEA.  That is why it is important for DEA to participate in this roundtable,” said Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division.  “No one agency or industry can solve this problem on their own. We have to continue to come together and work as a team to find a solution to this problem affecting  so many people.” 

“Law Enforcement cannot address the opioid crisis alone.  We implore everyone and anyone to join our battle against this evil,” said Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato.  “Senator Booker’s visit to Ocean County to examine the initiatives we have instituted and gain firsthand Knowledge from those closest to the fight is critical in finding solutions and implementing proactive measures to stop the unspeakable tragic loss of life.  I join everyone in Ocean County in thanking him for his efforts and insights to bring the strength of the federal government into our fight.”  

“We value the partnerships we have with the rest of the community to tackle this problem that has claimed far too many lives,’’ said Dr. Ramon Solhkhah, professor and founding chairman of Psychiatry & Behavioral Health Seton Hall-Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine and Chairman of Psychiatry at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. “To see all of us putting resources into finding a solution – it just proves there is a positive future ahead.’’

In March 2016, Senators Booker and Bob Menendez convened a statewide summit at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center to explore solutions to the heroin and opioid addiction epidemic gripping New Jersey and the nation.  Last August, Sens. Booker and Menendez convened a panel discussion with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and Veterans Affairs Under Secretary for Health David Shulkin at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston for a discussion on the heroin and opioid addiction crisis in New Jersey. Earlier this month, Senators Booker and Menendez were joined by U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell (NJ-09) and other state legislators, advocates, and hospital representatives at Englewood Hospital to highlight the devastating effects the BCRA would have on opioid addiction and treatment throughout New Jersey and the nation.