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  • Marijuana Legalization Vote Set for Monday

    Posted 3/22/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    The New Jersey State Legislature is nearing a decision to legalize marijuana for recreational use. This week, guest bloggers Nancy N. Delogu, Esq., and Alan I. Model, Esq., of Littler, Washington, D.C., write about the potential impact on the workplace. On April 9, Nancy Delogu, Esq., will be in New Jersey to speak about this issue at the annual Drugs Don’t Work in NJ Legal Issues of a Drug-Free Workplace Seminar at Perona Farms in Andover. Click HERE for more information and to register to attend.

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    New Jersey Poised to Enact First Recreational Marijuana Law Protecting Workers from Adverse Employment Action

     

    By Nancy N. Delogu and Alan I. Model

     

    New Jersey’s legislature is scheduled to vote Monday, March 25, 2019, on a bill designed to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, create a system by which marijuana and marijuana products will be taxed and sold, and expunge prior convictions for possession or distribution of cannabis products under state law.  The “New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Aid Modernization Act,” (“Modernization Act”), in its current form, contains employment law protections for individuals who use marijuana.  If enacted, it will be the first recreational marijuana law in the nation to explicitly protect individuals who choose to use marijuana from “discrimination” on the basis of such use.

     

    Employment Law Protections

     

    The Modernization Act provides:

     

    No employer shall refuse to hire or employ any person or shall discharge from employment or take any adverse action against any employee with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or other privileges of employment because that person does or does not smoke or use cannabis items, unless the employer has a rational basis for doing so which is reasonably related to the employment, including the responsibilities of the employee or prospective employee.

     

    And, although the bill also states that nothing in it “requires an employer to amend or repeal…[policies] to maintain a drug and alcohol free workplace or require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, being under the influence, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale, or growth of cannabis or cannabis items in the workplace, or to affect the ability of employers to have policies prohibiting cannabis use or intoxication by employees during work hours,” it is silent as to whether employers can continue to preclude employees from engaging in off-work marijuana use.

     

    The bill does not define or suggest what sort of “rational basis” an employer would need to demonstrate for declining to hire or employ a marijuana user, or if a drug-free workplace policy that prohibits all use of cannabis would be upheld absent some demonstration that its application had a rational basis as applied to the individual in question.  Regardless of how the bill would eventually be interpreted or enforced, if enacted, New Jersey would be the first in the nation to explicitly protect individuals who use marijuana away from work, or who work for employers that do not have clear policies prohibiting cannabis use or intoxication.

  • March 27 Summit Speakers Announced​

    Posted 3/13/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    The Knock Out Opioid Abuse Summit on the State and Federal Response to the Opioid Epidemic is just two weeks away. This event will provide New Jersey residents and leaders in the fight against the opioid epidemic valuable information on the state and federal efforts to stem the tide of this epidemic, as well as the resources available to address the crisis in communities throughout New Jersey.

     

    I am excited to share with you the list of our distinguished panelists for the summit, who will outline the epidemic from their unique perspective.  Summit speakers will include:

     

    • Rita Noonan, PhD, Deputy Director for Non-Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    • Dr. Anthony Ferreri, Regional Director, Region II of the United States Department of Health and Human Services
    • Susan Gibson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey Division
    • Anne Hazlett, Senior Adviser for Rural Affairs for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
    • Sharon Joyce, Director of NJ CARES (Coordinated Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies), New Jersey Office of the Attorney General
    • Suzanne M. Kunis, Director, Behavioral Health Solutions, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey
    • Erica Liu, Chief, Opioid Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Unit Assistant U.S. Attorney at U.S. Attorney’s Office – District of New Jersey

    These experts will provide vital information on the opioid crisis from a federal and state perspective and share innovations and best practices that can be replicated or implemented at the local level.

     

    If you are interested in attending the summit, please register at knockoutopioidabuse.drugfreenj.org/summit. A limited number of spaces are available. Registration is required to attend.

  • Did the FDA Spark the Opioid Epidemic?

    Posted 3/7/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    Can changing a few words on a prescription label be the reason for the current opioid epidemic facing our country?  According to drug manufacturer Ed Thompson, the FDA is at the root of the problem.

     

    The expanded use of opioid pain medication was precipitated by a label change that says the pain pills are effective for “daily, around-the-clock, long-term...treatment.”  According to Thompson, this label change allowed drug companies to expand the marketing of opioids in higher doses for a longer duration.

     

    For example, when Oxycontin was first approved by the FDA is was for short-term use, however in 2001, the FDA decision to change the label, allowed for the use of Oxycontin to be prescribed to patients with chronic ailments such as arthritis and back pain. Did this fateful decision by the FDA cause society to face its current opioid crisis?

     

    Watch the story unfold on “60 Minutes” 

  • Educating Student Athletes and Their Parents on Opioids

    Posted 2/27/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    Student athletes are among the most vulnerable groups affected by New Jersey’s opioid epidemic.

     

    Because of the physical toll of high school sports, these athletes are more prone to injuries that could lead to the prescribing of opioids. Combine that with the fact that the human brain is still developing during teenage years and the use of opioids can have a greater impact on teens’ brains.

     

    An editorial in today’s Star-Ledger presented concerning data on the use of prescription opioids by New Jersey student athletes. The writer states that an estimated 12 percent of male athletes and 9 percent of female athletes have been prescribed an opioid during the past year, according the federal data.

     

    To address this issue, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) and the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (NJ CARES) last week announced a new education initiative requiring student athletes and parents to watch a video on the risks of opioid use and addiction. The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ) is proud to serve in an advisory role in the creation of the video.

     

    PDFNJ also has collaborated with the NJSIAA for many years, including on a statewide steroid prevention program and the Stop Opioid Abuse Program (SOAP), which has helped to share vital information on the risks of prescription opioids and prevention methods with high school athletes.

     

    The initiatives will help to spread vital awareness of the dangers of opioids to help athletes and their parents make informed decisions to treat pain from sports injuries.

  • Knock Out Opioid Abuse Summit on the State and Federal Response to the Opioid Epidemic

    Posted 2/22/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    More than 3,000 people died from drug overdoses in New Jersey in 2018, a majority of which were opioid-related. Nationwide, more than 47,000 people died of opioid overdoses in 2017. There has been progress in the fight against the opioid epidemic, but far too many lives are being lost every day to this crisis.

     

    At the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Summit on the State and Federal Response to the Opioid Epidemic, state and federal officials will discuss resources available to local communities to address the opioid epidemic at the community level. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 27 at The Newark Museum, 49 Washington St. Newark, NJ.

     

    The statewide conference will serve as the first event of the continuation of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey’s Knock Out Opioid Abuse initiative, a two-year initiative focusing on addressing the opioid epidemic through town halls, prescriber education, parent education and a statewide media campaign to increase awareness of the crisis.

     

    Speakers will include representatives from the Drug Enforcement Administration, United States Attorney’s Office, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and other agencies.

     

    To learn more about the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Summit on the State and Federal Response to the Opioid Epidemic and to register to attend, visit knockoutopioidabuse.drugfreenj.org/summit. Seating is limited and registration is required. Please share this message with individuals or organizations interested in attending.

  • Parents Need to Be Informed About Opioid Alternatives

    Posted 2/14/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

     

    The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey has worked tirelessly over the past decade to help residents of New Jersey and the entire country understand the risks of prescription opioids.

     

    A recent column in the New York Times helps to inform parents on how they can best protect their children by speaking to their prescriber about possible non-opioid alternatives as well as the addictive nature of opioid painkillers.

     

    The story cited a survey of parents by the American Society of Anesthesiologists. More than half of the respondents worried about opioid addiction, but nearly two-thirds believed opioids were the best option to treat a child’s pain after a fracture or an operation.

     

    In New Jersey, doctors, dentists and other prescribers are legally required to have a conversation about non-opioid alternatives and the addictive qualities of opioids with patients or their patients’ parents prior to prescribing an opioid. However, all parents should be prepared to ask prescribers for more information on safer options available to manage their child’s pain.

  • How Have You Been Affected by the Opioid Epidemic? Tell PDFNJ Your Story

    Posted 2/6/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    The opioid epidemic has affected people of all backgrounds from every community in New Jersey. No one is immune.

     

    However, the stigma of addiction remains a barrier in addressing the opioid crisis.

     

    It is important for people affected by the opioid crisis to share their stories, as a means of breaking down the stigma of addiction and giving this issue the attention it requires.

     

    Whether you have struggled with opioid addiction or you know a family member or friend who has experienced it, we want to hear your story and share it with New Jersey residents during the Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series being held in all 21 New Jersey counties in 2019 and 2020.

     

    The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey will be holding a photo shoot from 3-7 p.m. Monday, February 11 at Hope Sheds Light, 253 Chestnut St., Toms River, NJ 08753. PDFNJ will use these photos and stories as part of the town hall series to put a face to the opioid epidemic and to help to break down the stigma of addiction.   

     

    If you are interested in participating or have any questions, email Matt Birchenough at matt@drugfreenj.org. Help break the stigma to help Knock Out Opioid Abuse.

  • Safer Prescribing of Opioids for Pediatric Dentists

    Posted 1/30/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    How often are kids approached by their peers, friends and even siblings to try drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and other substances?  And at what age does this pressure for substance use begin?

     

    Studies show by the time they are seniors, almost 70 percent of high school students will have tried alcohol, half will have taken an illegal drug, nearly 40 percent will have smoked a cigarette, and more than 20 percent will have used a prescription drug for a non-medical purpose.

     

    Parents should be aware that the source leading to substance misuse can come from unexpected places, like your dentist’s office.

     

    Nearly 6 percent of people ages 16 to 25 who received an initial opioid prescription in 2015 from dentists were diagnosed with opioid abuse within a year, according to a 2018 study from Stanford University School of Medicine.

     

    It’s important to give parents the information to protect their children from the risks of opioids and provide doctors information to prescribe responsibly to young children and adults.  

     

    Tonight the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey will be hosting a Do No Harm Symposium, along with the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, the Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey Division and the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, to discuss the links between prescription opioids and heroin use and the steps needed for the New Jersey medical community to utilize safer prescribing methods.

  • Physical Therapy Can Offer a Non-Pharmacological Alternative to Opioid Medication

    Posted 1/23/2019 by Super Admin

    In 2017, the New Jersey state legislature passed the Patient Notification Law, which featured several provisions that helped protect patients from the risks of prescription opioids, including a requirement for prescribers to discuss alternative non-opioid treatments.

     

    By encouraging other types of treatment, prescribers could keep patients opioid-naïve and prevent the potential for addiction.

     

    This week I invited Lisa Chamberlain, chair of the American Physical Therapy Association of New Jersey, to discuss physical therapy as a treatment for pain.

     

    By Lisa Chamberlain, PT, DPT, ATC

    Many people ask, what are non-opioid options to manage pain?  Who can my doctor partner with to help me or a family member wean off opioid medication? 

     

    In many cases, a physical therapist (PT) is the right healthcare professional to meet those needs. In 2017, the state of New Jersey passed the Patient Notification Act, which gave new guidelines that included how physical therapy should be discussed with patients as an alternative treatment approach to manage pain.  This should be considered by physicians as they enter into a “Pain Management Agreement” with the patient, which is now required prior to prescribing an opioid medication for more than 10 days in New Jersey.

     

    Of course, the best-case scenario would be to never prescribe an opioid to manage pain. A physical therapist can perform an evaluation and develop a detailed treatment plan that focuses on why you feel pain. Whether an individual’s pain is related to major surgery, such as a joint replacement or longstanding low back pain that has been debilitating, a physical therapist can help.

  • New Jersey Youth Can Spread Vital Prevention Messages

    Posted 1/15/2019 by Angelo M. Valente

    A new report from the National Safety Council reveals that, for the first time in history, Americans are more likely to die from an opioid overdose than in a motor vehicle accident.

     

    This startling statistic once again shows the dire need to educate youth about the dangers of drug use and spread awareness throughout the nation.

     

    New Jersey teenagers will have the opportunity to step up and spread vitally important prevention messages this spring as part of the New Jersey Shout Down Drugs high school music competition.

     

    Since the program’s inception in 2005, New Jersey Shout Down Drugs has challenged high school students to create original music with lyrics that contain powerful peer-to-peer substance use prevention messages. The deadline for New Jersey high school students to submit their original songs is Friday, February 1.

     

    Judges will select a finalist from every county as well as wild card finalists to compete in the Annual Prevention Concert, which will be held at Rutgers University’s Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater on Friday, May 10th. Three winners of the competition will be announced at the end of the concert. First place will receive a $5,000 music contract with the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey. Second-place will receive a $3,000 contract and the third-place finisher will earn a $2,000 contract.

     

    Each year of this program has produced many memorable songs and prevention messages, and I’m excited to see what this year’s participants have in store.

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