LIVINGSTON – U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez have long been working to raise awareness and advance policies to combat the ongoing opioid/heroin epidemic that has been plaguing New Jersey and the country. In their most recent effort, the two welcomed U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy at the Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston for a Monday forum on the topic.
According to Murthy, a large part of the issue surrounding addiction is the public perception of it. While he said that most people would not mind a diabetes clinic or cancer center opening in their neighborhood, the same cannot be said about addiction treatment and recovery centers.
“We think about addiction differently. We don’t see it as a chronic illness,” Murthy told the standing-room-only crowd at St. Barnabas. “Addiction is not a moral failing or a character flaw.”
The forum largely focused on improving prescribing practices of physicians in order to stem the number of those who grow reliant on opioids needlessly.
Another central topic in the discussion was getting members of congress to advocate for those suffering from drug addiction. Murthy called upon clinicians to get involved in making legislators know the issue is a critical one.
“Folks in our profession don’t speak up enough,” Murthy said. “We have to be there to provide that kind of advocacy and that kind of noise.”
When asked if congress was doing enough to curb addiction, Booker said that there was much more work to be done.
“I think the technical term would be ‘hell no,’” Booker said. “We need policies that will combat the devastating impact this crisis has caused.”
“We need to address that challenge as we would any national defense issue,” he said.
Both Menendez and Booker are cosponsors of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) that was signed into law in July of this year.
The forum also featured David Shulkin, the Veterans Affairs Under Secretary for Health.