As the opioid abuse epidemic in New Jersey keeps getting worse, Gov. Phil Murphy has announced several new steps to address the crisis.

Speaking Wednesday at Cooper University Hospital, Murphy noted there were more than 3,000 drug overdose deaths in 2018, a 15 percent increase over the previous year.

He said to help treat those in need, Medicaid prior authorization requirements are being lifted for medication assisted treatment, or MAT.

He said that certain medications have been proven effective in treating substance abuse disorders with therapy. Removing MAT requirements from Medicaid is important, he said, because “it allows more providers to treat more patients and allows patients to remain in their communities, in their jobs and with their families.”

Murphy said about 20 percent of state residents get their medical coverage from Medicaid.

To encourage the use of medication assisted treatment, the state is launching a new addiction treatment program that is going to create reimbursement incentives for primary care providers to administer MAT for opioid addiction.

Murphy said more primary care physicians and nurse practitioners will be recruited by the state Department of Human Services to provide MAT.

Additionally, he said two opioid treatment “centers of excellence” will be established, one in Newark at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, and at the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden. The schools are located in the two counties with the leading death tolls related to opioids.

Murphy also announced opioid addition has been added for eligibility to New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.

He noted the opioid epidemic is not only taking place in the Garden State. More Americans now die from overdose than car accidents.

“Not only do we hope to break the back of this awful scourge but we hope to become a model for other states to follow and to work with," Murphy said.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said an “all hands on deck” approach was being taken to enforce laws, crack down on drug suspects and prosecute criminals and other entities that promote the use of opioid drugs.

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