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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 was signed into law today.

The law, 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 law 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 law 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 law, 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.

“The use of prescription drugs as a means to get high is a growing lethal epidemic,” said Senator Madden, D-Gloucester and Camden. “Prescription pills are easily accessible at home or with a quick visit to the doctor. This law aims to address this issue by providing the Attorney General with the authority to better equip law enforcement and medical professionals with the tools they need to combat prescription drug abuse.”

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

This law 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.

S-2372 was approved with a vote of 73-0. The Senate approved it by a vote of 36-0 in February. It takes effect  immediately.

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