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Senator Fred Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester, listens to testimony before the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee regarding services for people with developmental disabilities.

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Fred H. Madden Jr. that seeks to facilitate the coordination of Statewide law enforcement measures by the Attorney General to combat prescription opioid drug abuse received final approval by the General Assembly today.

The bill, S-2372, calls for the Attorney General to coordinate and direct a statewide effort of law enforcement agencies along with the Division of Consumer Affairs and professional licensing boards to identify, investigate and prosecute illegal sources and distribution of prescription opioid drugs. The bill also authorizes the Attorney General to provide training to law enforcement officials and recommend training for medical professionals to detect prescription drug diversion and abuse.

The bill provides for the Attorney General to issue appropriate directives, establish task forces, and implement such other measures as the Attorney General deems necessary to carry out the purposes of the bill, and states that he may call to his assistance the services of employees of any State, country, or municipal department, board, bureau, commission, or agency as may be required and as may be available for these purposes.

“Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem, especially among young people,” said Senator Madden, D-Gloucester and Camden. “This lethal epidemic can be traced back to the use of prescription pills by people who are accessing them through doctors or in the medicine cabinet at home. This bill will direct the Attorney General to use his authority to better equip law enforcement and medical professionals to combat prescription drug abuse and address the connections between prescription medications and the drug addiction problem that is taking place in our communities.”

In addition, the bill would empower the Attorney General to enhance oversight of professional licensing boards relating to the administration and dispensing of controlled dangerous substances.

This legislation is part of a bipartisan package of bills making their way through the legislature that are aimed at addressing the heroin and prescription drug abuse problem in New Jersey.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription drug overdoses account for more deaths than overdoses of heroin and cocaine combined. The organization reported that every day in the United States, 120 people die as a result of drug overdose. More than 700 people died from drug overdoses in 2009 alone in New Jersey, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. In that year, opioids were involved in over 75 percent of drug overdose deaths in the state that year.

S-2372 was approved with a vote of 73-0. The Senate approved it by a vote of 36-0 in February. It now heads to the Governor’s desk.

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