To the Editor:
I commend the sponsors of New Jersey Law S-2323, including Senator Vin Gopal for supporting the war against opioids. Naloxone is an important lifesaver for the millions of Americans who suffer from an opioid addiction.
Over the past 5 years, I have worked extensively with communities of substance users in Ohio and South Carolina. What I have concluded is that this patient community highly values access to naloxone.
While this piece of legislation is a step in the right direction, more needs to be done. Many injection drug users around the country lack access to sterile needles and thus, face an increased risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C.
This is saddening given that we live in a time when highly effective treatment options are available for both diseases. To this end, I propose expanding New Jersey’s statewide syringe exchange services, especially in predominantly rural counties.
The evidence is quite clear that such harm reduction programs greatly reduce the incidence of these viral illnesses amongst injection drug users.
At the same time, healthcare providers need to be educated about the specific needs of substance users. This will help to clear any misperceptions and biases that providers hold against this highly marginalized population, while increasing their awareness of additional resources in their communities.
Doing so can allow providers to engage in more welcoming conversations with patients who suffer from a substance addiction, thus creating a much-needed safe space.
It is my hope that this new law will inspire other states to take similar actions. There has never been a better time than now to address this public health emergency, and we must not wait any further.
Once again, I commend the government of New Jersey for enacting S-2323, and eagerly await the positive results it is intended to bring. Thank you!