By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
The place is called Daytop Village, a drug treatment center in the hills of Morris County.
Gov. Chris Christie was on the board of directors here back in the ’90s.
He was back today for a roundtable with clients and stakeholders, another in a series of visits to facilities in New Jersey that treat drug addiction.
It’s a disease and an epidemic, he said, even in affluent suburbs.
“The children who come here and who need help come from every type of socio-economic background. Every type of family. Every type of educational background. This is a disease that doesn’t discriminate. This is a disease that’ll take you no matter where you come from,” Christie said.
In his State of the State address last month, Christie launched a campaign aimed at opiate abuse.
He said 1,600 people died of it in New Jersey in 2015. That’s nearly four per day.
His anti-opiate agenda includes a six-month mandate on insurance coverage of out- or in-patient treatment, a five-day supply limit on opiate first prescriptions, mandating a conversation between doctor and patient, establishing a new hotline, early drug education in schools, double reimbursement rates for treatment providers and a 37 percent increase in available psychiatric beds.
Maybe you’ve seen him on TV promoting the campaign.
“It’s really true that we don’t talk about this enough and that’s part of the reason why I’m doing this. I feel like if the governor of the state is out there a few times a week, which I’m doing now and will do more of on TV over time on this issue like we’re doing now. We’re trying to break down this idea that an addict is a lesser person,” Christie said.
Janeesha of Monmouth County was sent here by the court system.
So was Ryan Morrison, who had a hard time adjusting for a year.
“I really decided to start turning my life around and really started to see that I do have a problem. I have a problem with opiates, stimulants, anything really. I was into whatever you put in front of me, really, I would take it,” he said.
Now he works for his father.
“Daytop saved his life. No doubt. I have no doubt in my mind,” said Joe Morrison.
“This is a family disease. It is a disease whether each member of the family has it or not. It is a family disease. If one member of the family has it, the whole family has it,” Christie said.
What does Daytop CEO Jim Curtin think of this crusade he’s on?
“Very much needed I think he’s really setting an example for what governors across the country should be doing,” said Curtin.
These visits to drug treatment centers seem to have given the governor a new sense of purpose. It’s like his daily dose of saving lives, helping families and re-engaging with New Jersey.