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Senator Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union) testifies on the Senate floor regarding S-1, legislation that would establish marriage equality in New Jersey. The bill is sponsored by Senator Lesniak along with Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and Senate President Stephen P. Sweeney (D-Salem, Cumberland, Gloucester). The bill was approved by the full Senate with a vote of 24-16.

Part of Legislation Package that Takes Comprehensive Approach to Battle State’s Heroin Plight

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Raymond Lesniak and Joseph Vitale that would permit medication-assisted treatment as a form of treatment in drug court programs was signed into law today.

As part of a series of bills aimed at tackling the heroin and prescription drug epidemic that is occurring across the state, the law, S-2381, allows those who are in the special probation drug court programs to graduate with medication-assisted treatments, defined as the use of any medications approved by the federal FDA to treat substance use disorders, including extended-release naltrexone, methadone, and buprenorphine, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies.

“Recognizing that drug and alcohol addiction is a major problem plaguing our state’s prison population is the first step in addressing the problem. Matching that problem with an appropriate solution is what will move us forward and keep New Jersey’s drug court graduates on the right path to staying clean,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “In order to improve public health and safety and for our efforts in drug court policies to be successful, these policies must be built on adequately meeting the treatment needs of these individuals, and in some cases, that means medication-assisted treatment.”

The law clarifies that any urine test for drug or alcohol use conducted in the course of the drug court program which shows a positive result for an individual using medication-assisted treatment would not constitute a program violation unless the positive test result is for substances unrelated to the individual’s medication-assisted treatment.

“We need a method of treatment that is proven to work in order to provide drug court graduates with a real opportunity for recovery and to successfully reduce the rate of recidivism among that population, and medication-assisted treatment works,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex and chair of the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee. “The heroin epidemic is only growing worse in New Jersey, and a proactive and effective treatment approach in our drug courts is in order for such highly vulnerable individuals.”

The law further clarifies that an individual’s temporary or continued management of drug or alcohol dependency by medication-assisted treatment, whenever supported by a satisfactory report from the treatment provider of progress and predicted long-term success, could not be used as the basis to declare a violation of the drug court program or unsuccessful completion of the required program treatment.

The bill was approved by the Assembly with a vote of 76-0 and the Senate with a vote of 39-0. The law takes effect immediately.

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