One of our mottos is nothing about us without us. In order to change how the system works, the solutions New Jersey puts forward must be led by us: the people on the frontlines of New Jersey’s overdose crisis.
When we put our heads together as people directly impacted by this issue, we can get a lot done. Here’s what the Not One More crew has been working on this spring – and how you can get involved.
Since we’ve been making a big ruckus about how adding extreme penalties on fentanyl will hurt rather than help us, the NJ bills proposing these penalties haven’t been put up to vote yet. In addition to testifying against S3096 and S3325 in Trenton, we met with Sen. Gopal, one of the bill’s sponsors. It looks like we gave him a lot to think about, since he decided not to put it up for the next committee vote in February. This is awesome news, and it’s all thanks to people who have directly experienced these issues stepping up and making our voices heard!
We’re meeting with Sen. Gopal’s office again in May to talk about another piece of legislation he sponsored in 2021, but this one makes body brokering illegal so those profiting off of people’s pain can be stopped and held accountable. We’re going to work together to strengthen this bill and will have updates for you soon – stay tuned!
There are also some bills we’ve weighed in on at the federal level. We asked folks at our last member meeting to vote on whether or not we should sign on as an organization to letters of support and opposition for two pieces of federal legislation. Our members overwhelmingly voted SUPPORT the Reentry Act, which would allow states to restart Medicaid services for individuals 30 days prior to release from incarceration. That means more continuity of care and healthcare access following release. And the majority of folks voted to OPPOSE the HALT Act, which would permanently schedule fentanyl-related substances (FRS) as schedule I, imposes aggressive mandatory minimums, and fails to provide an offramp for removing harmless substances from the drug schedule. The fight we’re waging against bad fentanyl bills at the state-level will become moot if this bill passes!
Also at the federal level: over the winter we won expanded access to buprenorphine through the MAT Act, but now the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is trying to roll it back again. Yikes. They’re proposing a rule to restrict telehealth treatment options, which allowed so many more people to receive life-saving medicine through the pandemic. Because NJOP, Sea Change RCO, Worth Saving, and 40,000 other organizations and individuals submitted public comments in opposition to this rule change, it has been delayed and telehealth services temporarily extended, buying folks more time to stand up and speak out!
In March, we also met with Deputy Commissioner Valerie Mielke and her team from the Department of Human Services (DHS), and we learned a few important pieces of information. First, we learned that Governor Murphy signed legislation into law protecting the state’s opioid settlement funds from any legislators, present or future, who’d want to use this money for anything other than what it’s intended for. We also learned that Ocean County is getting a mobile MAT van through Pinnacle Treatment Centers, but information is scarce. Do you know more that we might be missing? Want to join us when we meet with the providers who’ll be running the van to learn more? If so, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now we talked about the state and federal level – let’s take it back down to the counties, particularly Ocean and Monmouth Counties, where a majority of our members live and work. Did you see us kicking butt at Ocean County’s opioid settlement council meeting? If you haven’t yet, go check us out in this awesome article from the Sandpaper. We rallied together 25 people and packed the room, taking our solutions straight to the people who’re deciding where this money goes in our county. (This is an extra big deal, because in the other two meetings the council had, there was a grand total of only ONE attendee. That means we’re the main voices in the room.)
We still have a lot we can do here to educate the county councils about harm reduction solutions, and we want you there with us. We need you to join us at Ocean County’s next council meeting that’s open to the public on May 25th from 10-11am in Toms River to tell the council members exactly what folks going through the recovery process need at every step of the way, and what types of evidence-based programs they should be funding to make that happen. Reach out to email@example.com if you can be there or want to learn more. This doesn’t end in Ocean County – we’re building out a similar strategy in Monmouth County, and plan to take what we learn to the counties you live in.
Last but not least, we launched our Deep Canvass community outreach project! We’re making phone calls and knocking doors across Ocean and Monmouth Counties to have conversations with our neighbors about how the overdose crisis has impacted them and inviting them into the N0M community of action.
If this sounds like a lot… well, it is! We’re getting $#&% done. We know from experience what’s broken about how our state treats people with substance use disorder, and we also know what we need in order to fix it. This is what we’re capable of when we build with people power.