Chris Christie Continues Fight Against Addiction
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Chris Christie Continues Fight Against Addiction

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may be lagging in the polls for the Republican presidential race, his campaign failing to generate much interest among GOP voters. But more people need to be talking his talk when it comes to addiction and recovery.

In October 2014, Christie established the Facing Drug Addiction Task Force to fight and prevent drug addiction in New Jersey. The group includes 12 state leaders, from pastors to political figures and a former football star. To mark its first anniversary, the governor recently spoke at Turning Point, a treatment center in Paterson, making it clear he’s still committed to the cause after a term and a half in office.

“What I’ve tried to emphasize over the last six years is to remind everybody that drug addiction is a disease. It is a disease. It’s not a moral failing,” he said. Preach, Governor, preach.

Whatever It Takes

Christie made his name as a tough-on-crime federal prosecutor in New Jersey. But he actually has some pretty evolved and progressive views on alcoholism and drug addiction. In fact, I’d say he follows a strict “whatever it takes” approach that includes supporting treatment rather than prison for first-time drug offenders without a history of violent behavior. And he’s definitely not a fan of the War on Drugs.

Clearly willing to explore unconventional ways to get heroin addicts off the street, Christie recently signed a law that allows drug courts to send repeat offenders to methadone clinics as opposed to solely relying on 12-step, abstinence-based programs for treatment. At the Turning Point event, he said he also plans to expand reentry programs for drug offenders coming back into the mainstream from treatment and/or prison. Not to mention, he’s revamping referral services for those suffering from addiction and has embraced the use of the antidote drug naloxone to treat heroin overdoses.

Another new Christie initiative is a program called “Recovery Coaches” that will connect people just coming off an overdose with addiction specialists and other treatment services.

Near-Death Overdose

Christie reiterated in his Turning Point speech that both addicts and their families need assistance. It’s obvious that addiction has personally affected him in a really profound way. He cites the Facing Drug Addiction Task Force as his proudest accomplishment as governor. There’s been speculation he battles his own set of demons, but I don’t think it’s fair to generalize that every overweight or obese person is a food addict.

Another speaker was a Turning Point client named Michelle, who said she was finally experiencing long-term sobriety after being in and out of over a dozen rehabs through the course of seven years and surviving a near-death overdose. A living demonstration of Christie’s main pointthat no one voluntarily chooses to be an addictshe said, “The first time I took a sip of alcohol or smoked a joint I did not think I would end up with a needle in my arm, but the progression of the disease was slow and then it got faster and in time I ended up on the streets using heroin daily.”

Would this woman have gotten sober without the New Jersey government’s initiatives? I don’t know but that’s not really the point. Her recovery is a miracle and a governor who is willing to showcase her strength, rather than dismiss her as a hopeless addict, is a leader we should all commend.

Photo Courtesy of Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (resized and cropped)

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About Author

Mary Patterson Broome has written for After Party Magazine, Women's Health Magazine Online, AOL, WE TV and Mashed. She has been performing stand-up comedy at clubs, colleges, casinos, and festivals for over a decade.