Goodbye Jim Whelan

Goodbye Jim Whelan

State Sen. Jim Whelan told a Press of Atlantic City editorial board last week he will not seek re-election in November. His career in public service has included, from top left, terms as Atlantic City councilman and mayor, a scholarship swim at the Claridge in February 1992, unlocking of the ocean with Miss Atlantic City Stephanie Piatt in May 1998, and discussions with current A.C. Mayor Don Guardian and state Senate President Steve Sweeney.

VIVIANA PERNOT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

TRENTON — Several bills aimed at fighting opioid addiction in New Jersey are one step closer to becoming law.

State Senate and Assembly committees approved legislation Monday on expanding health insurance coverage for addiction treatment, raising public awareness on heroin and opioids, and creating an opioid task force.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, and Senate President Stephen Sweeney would require health insurance carriers and public health benefits programs to provide unlimited benefits for inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment at in-network facilities with a prescription.

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“By expanding insurance coverage to those who need immediate access to help ... we will save lives," Vitale said in a statement. 

The bill would require the benefits be provided for the first 180 days per plan year of inpatient and outpatient treatment of a substance-use disorder at the direction of a medical profession. There is no need for prior authorization or requirements.

The bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

Assembly Democrats were successful when the Assembly Appropriations Committee approved the H.O.P.E Initiative Act, which would create a public awareness campaign to educate New Jersey residents about the dangers, causes and responses to heroin and opioid addiction.

“We can also dispel commonly accepted myths and stereotypes of drug addiction and lead them to treatment facilities enabling them to rebuild their lives," said Assemblyman Joe Danielsen, D-Middlesex, Somerset. 

Bill sponsors said the state Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services would oversee the Heroin and Opioid Drug Public Education campaign and work closely with the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Partnership for a Drug-free New Jersey and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

A different bill, passed by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, would create the Joint Legislative Task Force on Addiction Prevention and Treatment. The six-member, bipartisan task force would focus its efforts on care issues, communication, expansion and improvement within addiction prevention and treatment.

Legislators made a plea to President Donald Trump and Congress to allow Medicaid reimbursement for certain inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation and treatment programs for addicts. Currently, people in treatment are not eligible to get certain treatment covered by Medicaid.

“This antiquated exclusion has led to decreased access to these programs and is contributing to the substance use disorder epidemic that is gripping the nation and our state,” Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-Burlington said in a statement.

Contact:

609-272-7022 NLeonard@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

Previously interned and reported for Boston.com, The Asbury Park Press, The Boston Globe

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