Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal
Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announces new programs to fight the opioid epidemic at Seton Hall University School of Law, in Newark.

State agencies will be better able to track the opioid epidemic and target efforts to address it; communities will benefit from new emergency response options; and the New Jersey public now has easy access to a wealth of data related to drug use.

Those are among the goals of a new strategy to battle addiction outlined yesterday by New Jersey's Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, the first targeted policy response from the administration of Democrat Phil Murphy to what has become a growing public health crisis in the Garden State.

The effort involves the creation of a public entity, the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator of Addiction Response and Enforcement Strategies - or NJ CARES - within the Department of Law and Public Safety, to oversee the state's work and serve as a liaison with outside groups and agencies, Grewal said.

Drug-awareness dashboard

In addition, federal funding will be used to create an interagency drug awareness "dashboard," an online platform that will allow diverse state officials to access updated information about the epidemic - ranging from street crimes to overdoses to prescriber abuse - in order to more precisely target their response, the AG added.

Another federal grant will pay for recovery experts, mental health providers, and other crisis intervention professionals to work with local police and emergency medical technicians in multidisciplinary opioid-response teams that can attend to drug-related incidents 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to the announcement. Similar teams have been created in other jurisdictions nationwide, including New York City.

An accompanying website, also launched Thursday, provides the public with up to six years of data on opioid prescriptions, overdose deaths, and use of naloxone, an overdose reversal agent that has become a critical tool for emergency responders and recovery specialists. Once fully operational, the site will be updated weekly, officials said.