WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez (both D-NJ) and U.S. Representative Donald Norcross (NJ-01) announced the expansion of the Liberty Mid-Atlantic High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA), a federal drug prevention program within the Office of National Drug Control Policy, to include Atlantic County.  

The designation, which the lawmakers advocated for in June, will allow Atlantic County to receive federal assistance through the HIDTA program to combat the opioid epidemic. The Liberty Mid-Atlantic HIDTA received $980,396 in discretionary funding for FY18, the largest ever. Within that allocation, $150,000 in federal funding will be used to combat the opioid epidemic and further the coordination and development of drug control efforts among federal, state, local law enforcement officials in Atlantic County.

Booker and Menendez were previously successful in expanding the New York/New Jersey HIDTA to include Ocean County and Monmouth County, which have both experienced a sharp rise in heroin and opioid use and trafficking.

“We have seen the devastating toll our nation’s opioid epidemic has taken on families and communities in Atlantic County and across New Jersey,” said Senator Booker. “Finding a long-term solution to the opioid crisis requires a holistic approach that includes law enforcement, medical professionals, and treatment providers. This designation will do just that by increasing coordination among all levels of government and providing Atlantic County access to critical federal resources to help heal our communities and save lives.”

“We know that opioid addiction and deaths from heroin, prescription and synthetic opioid overdoses is growing all across New Jersey and Atlantic City is no exception,” said Senator Menendez. “We also know that part of tackling this crisis means targeting the flow of illegal drugs like heroin and fentanyl at the local level.  Including Atlantic County as part of a comprehensive, regional strategy will provide a new level of intelligence sharing, coordination and law enforcement resources stretching from Philadelphia to the shore.  That’s why I was such a strong proponent of this new designation and why I’m confident it will have a significant impact.”

“Every single year we’re losing more Americans to the opioid epidemic than we did in all of the Vietnam War, and in the past eight years, opioid deaths in New Jersey have increased six-fold. It’s clear we need to work together, address the many different aspects of this crisis and implement a variety of tactics to help those suffering from the disease of addiction," said Congressman Donald Norcross, Vice-Chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic. “We’re taking positive steps forward with this new designation for Atlantic City and by passing a large, bipartisan package to curb the opioid epidemic, which included provisions from my Jobs Plus Recovery Act. Let’s keep working on solutions and vote to increase mental health and addiction funding because one preventable death is too many.”

HIDTA was created by Congress through the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, and provides assistance to federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States.

The impact of the opioid epidemic on New Jersey has been staggering. Between 2011 and 2015, New Jersey lost more than 3,500 people to heroin-related drug overdoses. In 2018 alone, it’s estimated that more than eight people die from drug overdoses each day in New Jersey.

As part of their ongoing effort to combat the opioid crisis, in March 2016 Booker and Menendez met with NY/NJ HIDTA officials at a statewide opioid summit the lawmakers convened to discuss way to combat New Jersey’s opioid epidemic. In August 2016, Booker and Menendez also hosted 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 on the heroin and opioid addiction crisis in New Jersey.

Just last week, the Senate passed an opioid package that is now headed to the President’s desk which includes a provision authored by Booker, Menendez, and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09) that will help hospitals and emergency departments develop, implement, and study best practices for utilizing alternatives to opioids for pain management. The provision is based off the successful Alternatives to Opiates (ALTO) program at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, which decreased emergency department opioid prescriptions by nearly 60 percent in its first year alone.