Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez (both D-NJ) announced the expansion of the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA), a federal drug prevention program, to include Ocean County and assist efforts to battle the opioid epidemic. The designation, which Sen. Booker advocated for in May, 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 New Jersey, due in large part to the large influx of potent heroin laced with toxic adulterants, including fentanyl.
In 2016, Booker and Menendez were also successful in expanding the New York/New Jersey HIDTA to include Monmouth County, which has experienced a sharp rise in both heroin and opioid use and trafficking. Through that designation, Monmouth County was eligible to receive $125,000 in federal funding to support a team led by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office consisting of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), local law enforcement and other partners to focus on opioid- and heroin-related investigations and outreach.
“The opioid epidemic plaguing our nation continues to tear families and communities apart across Ocean County and our entire state,” said Sen. Booker. “The key to finding a long-term solution to the opioid crisis is to implement an all-hands-on-deck 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 Ocean County access to critical federal resources. In the wake of yet another stunning defeat of efforts to strip healthcare away from millions of Americans, this federal designation comes at an important time to help heal our communities and save lives.”
“Ocean County is the epicenter of a growing opioid epidemic gripping our state, and sweeping across the country,” said Sen. Menendez. “Being part of the New York/New Jersey HIDTA provides Ocean County with yet another tool in the ongoing battle against opioids, including access to federal resources to help stem the tide and save lives from the perils of heroin and prescription opioid overdose. This HIDTA designation combined with expanded access to naloxone and treatment programs, as well as greater awareness amongst patients and providers about addiction risk, are essential to protecting our citizens and our communities from the affliction of addiction.”
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.
“I can’t thank the Senators enough for helping us achieve this critical designation, bringing new and powerful assistance to Ocean County’s opioid crisis fight,” said Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato. “We have long sought the help of this federal drug prevention program to bolster our ability to make substantial impact in our fight to close Ocean County borders to drug dealers. We especially thank Senator Booker for personally advocating so strongly on our behalf. Simply put: This is a game changer.”
During the Ocean County stop of his annual #JerseyRoadTrip, in July Sen. Booker 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 at Ocean Medical Center 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.
In July, 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 impact Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have on opioid addiction and treatment throughout New Jersey and the nation.
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.