Gov. Chris Christie is unlikely to find a foe while making his final round of appearances in this capacity, being honored for his work expanding substance abuse treatment and services. On Friday, he received an award from the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies.
“We think that the work that they’ve done to bring recognition to this disenfranchised population and stigmatized population has been unparalleled and unprecedented,” Debra Wentz, the association’s president and CEO said.
Wentz read a litany of Christie’s accomplishments as the governor looked on approvingly. Praises included funding to expand drug courts, investing $200 million for prevention and recovery efforts with opioid abuse and signing a number of laws.
“This has been something I’ve cared deeply about for the last 22 years. It’s not something that you campaign on. It’s not political. It is personal. I’ve often thought that, in the midst of campaigns, that it’s not something to talk all that much about. It’s something that when you get into office, and have the privileged of being in office, you just start doing,” said Christie.
Christie recounted several stories, many of which he’s shared on campaign trails and at events across the state, such as his desire to help after losing a friend battling opioid addiction. The stories seemed just as powerful to this crowd as the first time he told them.
“Inevitably, that call comes on an early Sunday morning that you’ve been dreading for a long time. It was that your friend, at 52 years old, was found in a motel room in West Orange, New Jersey with an empty bottle of percocet and an empty quart of vodka by himself, dead,” Christie said
Christie was in good company today. Former Governor Jim McGreevey, who is dedicating his second stint in public life to prisoner reentry and rehabilitation programs, also was honored.
“You guys get it. With all due respect, I talk to policy makers, I talk to decision makers, I talk to legislators, I talk to police, I talk to people all over and they don’t understand what’s happening in the street. And that’s why I believe that we’re blessed to have a governor in office now, and a governor coming in, who is working and committed to this crisis,” McGreevey said.
Wentz is on Governor-elect Murphy’s transition team. All indicators seem to point to his support for these causes.
When asked if she feels Murphy will give the issues the same amount of attention that Christie did, Wentz said, “It’s always very hard to replace a governor who has made it his number one priority your issue.”
It’s clear that Christie is focusing his final weeks in office on cementing his legacy battling the opioid addiction crisis. The question is, will the next governor keep the ball moving forward?