Guest Blog from PICK Awareness

Reducing the stigma surrounding substance misuse and supporting those in need of help as they battle the disease of addiction is key to addressing the opioid epidemic. Below is a guest blog from Donna DeStefano of PICK Awareness that explores one option moving forward in New Jersey. 

N.J. Recovery Support License Plates: Bill A-5061
By Donna DeStefano, PICK Awareness
Governor Chris Christie has placed the spotlight on “Second Chances” for people dealing with substance use disorders. He understands that New Jerseyans deserve a chance to reclaim their lives.
It’s no secret that we are in the midst of the worst opiate epidemic this state has seen. Unfortunately, losing your family, your home and your health insurance are most times associated with this disease.
One day I was driving behind a car that had a “Conquer Cancer” specialty license plate. It was a particularly tough day because I had received a phone call from a mom who needed sober living resources and funding for her son. This call was one of many requests that I have received over the years. Having been there myself trying to find sober living housing for one of my own daughters I was so frustrated that I started to cry!  
Then it hit me! Why not have N.J. “Support Recovery” license plates! Not only would it provide a sustainable funding model, but it would also provide awareness and help reduce the stigma! The sales of special interest license plates have made a significant difference in supporting various groups. Did you know that New Jersey currently has 6,179,318 drivers (according to That is a lot of license plates! 
Well, the idea wasn’t so cut and dry and here’s why:
The criteria that had to be met and was required from the Division of Motor Vehicle Commission states; that there is a $50,000.00 fee for the production of the license plates. It couldn’t be state or public funding. There must be 500 individual signatures supporting the bill and lastly, a legislator had to write and propose the bill. I’m excited to say that ALL criteria have been met!
Bill A-5061 has bipartisan support! Assemblyman Sean Kean and Assemblyman Joseph Egan introduced it. I currently have over 700 signatures and thanks to Thomas J. DeFelice lll, Vice President & General Counsel, Circle BMW and Jim Appleton, President of The N.J. Coalition of Auto Dealers, I have funding for this initiative!
(See statement from Tom DeFelice at bottom of post)
The DMHAS (Division of Mental health and Addiction Services) states that recovery support services are non-clinical services that assist individuals and families to recover from alcohol and drug problems. They include social support, linkage to service providers and a full range of human services that facilitate recovery and wellness to an improved quality of life.
I have consulted with many stakeholders in N.J. to gather data regarding the need to provide these services. The intent of this measure is to reduce homelessness as a barrier to recovery and to reduce relapse and recidivism for indigent individuals struggling with substance use disorders. It will bring sorely needed funding to fill the gap of recovery support services. Having a stable, sober living environment is key to a person’s success. 
I urge everyone in New Jersey to call their legislator and tell them to vote “Yes” on this bill. There are 322 signatures online and the rest are handwritten petition signatures, totaling 719. You can still sign this petition online by clicking here.
Here is why we need to pass this bill!
The following data shows information on New Jersey’s current health crisis and opiate epidemic. 
We are in a state and nation where 4.59 million prescriptions and 216 million prescriptions respectively were written for opioid-based pain relievers last year.
More than 100,000 New Jersey residents are already addicted to prescription opiates or its illegal street cousin, heroin. More than 5,000 people have died from overdoses in our state in the past decade alone. And the overdose antidote, Narcan, is deployed more than 20 times a day.
According to Governor Christie’s Executive order #219 and 66% of the 2017 State of the State Address the following statistics showed:
• There are roughly 128,000 heroin users in N.J.
• Approximately 85% of people in jail are there because of a substance use disorder
• Heroin claimed 918 lives in 2015, the highest annual death toll from the drug ever seen in N.J.
• Drug Overdoses jumped from 21% between 2014 & 2015.
• There was a 30% increase in heroin deaths over the previous year & triple the number of deaths by the synthetic opioid fentanyl
• Nearly 1600 people died of “combined” drug overdoses in 2015
• Nationally, it’s estimated that every 19 minutes an American dies of an overdose from heroin or prescription opiates
• 4 out of 5 users begin with prescription drugs
• 4 times the number of people died of drug overdoses than thee were murders last year
• 3 times the number compared to car crashes and 43% of fatally injured drivers tested, showed signs of recent drug use
• Over 6,000 deaths attributed to heroin or prescription opioid-related overdoses since 2004
Statement from Tom DeFelice:
Upon meeting Donna DeStefano of P.I.C.K. Awareness and listening to her first-hand accounts of the horrors of addiction, as well as the hope and healing that can take place with the right mix of resources, I couldn’t help but be inspired to participate. Her passion and determination to promote and support recovery efforts is not only admirable but contagious. She shared her vision to create a statewide “support recovery” license plate with an objective of raising the funds necessary to provide critical post recovery support such as sober living housing. We pledged our support to Donna, but knew a project of this magnitude required additional backing so we turned to Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Dealers. Thanks to Jim and NJCar, the project has the seed funds to move forward and all automotive dealerships in the state will endorse this worthy cause.
-Thomas J. DeFelice III
Vice President & General Counsel, Circle BMW
Thank you for your support. We are in this together!
Donna DeStefano

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