News : Christie Touts How N.J. Addiction Hotline Helps Save Lives
Piscataway, NY, USA, April 22, 2016 -- A few months ago, Heather Carns recalled, a phone number helped save her life.
The 36-year-old Medford resident said she was struggling with an alcohol addiction, but three hospital emergency room trips in early December didn't help.
"I was literally drinking myself to death," Carns remembered Friday, standing next to Gov. Chris Christie during a news conference. "I was at an all-time low."
But a friend gave her several phone numbers to seek help, which Carns scribbled on the back of an envelope. After a few dead ends, she eventually got through to the Interim Management Entity, a 24-hour substance abuse hotline at Rutgers University partially funded by the state. The program put Carns in touch with a treatment center.
That date was Dec. 12, and Carns has been sober since. On Friday, she recounted her story in person to Christie, who toured the Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care in Piscataway, where the hotline's call center is based.
"I stand here as a testimony that true, fulfilling lasting recovery is possible," Carns said.
Christie said Carns' call was one of about 45,000 the hotline — 1-844-276-2777 — has received since it launched in July.
"I am incredibly touched by Heather's story," the Republican governor said. "The significance she places on Dec. 12 tells you not only how important what we do here, but it also tells you how desperately she wanted to be helped."
Addiction in New Jersey has skyrocketed in recent years, especially heroin and opoid abuse. A report by NJ Advance Media last year found that if all the state's 128,000 heroin addicts lived in the same place, it would be New Jersey's fourth largest city. And treatment, officials said, is often hard to pin down.
But when someone calls the hotline, officials said, they are immediately given help by a person on the other line who can direct them to facilities across New Jersey where they can get help.
Christie added that 25 percent of those calls so far have been family members searching to help their loved ones.
The hotline has been funded partially by $2.3 million in the current state budget. Christie has proposed increasing that to $2.7 million in his proposed state budget for the fiscal year that begins in July. The rest of the $9 million program is funded by the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.
Fighting addiction has been a cornerstone of Christie's nearly seven years as governor. On Monday, he spoke at a Hoboken hospital about how Narcan — an antidote the heroin overdoses — has been used nearly 11,000 times since a statewide effort to make it available to first responders started in 2014.
"This is a big emotional state," Christie said Friday. "People do not leave their feelings hidden beneath them. We love and care about each other. And when we see another New Jerseyan suffering, we want to get them help."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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