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Chris Christie Says He Will Rob From Charity to Save Addicts

By Dorri Olds 05/24/16

During a recent panel, the New Jersey governor discussed plans to allocate state funds toward addiction and behavioral health treatments. 

Chris Christie Says He Will Rob From Charity to Save Addicts
Christie at the Scientific American Opioid Addiction Forum panel discussion Photo via

At a forum last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took a stubborn stance, vowing to cut hospital funding if they don't use the money to improve addiction treatment and behavioral health services. Christie's administration is planning to cut $279 million from funding for hospital charity care (when patients are unable to pay for hospital services) but the governor is adding $127 million to the budget specifically allocated for substance abuse and behavioral health services. 

“I want to see the results,” the governor said to a crowd of 200 medical and law enforcement professionals at the Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune. If hospitals don't deliver, Christie threatened to pull the funding the following year. "Now I’m going to see whether or not there’s going to be more beds allocated to this, both on the behavioral side and the addiction side," he said. "Because if not, I will tell you that in next year’s budget, you think charity care is a problem this year? I will take that $127 million out of charity care, and then you all can take that off your bottom line."

To illustrate his frustration over the oppressive stigma that keeps addicts from getting the help they need, the governor shared a personal story about his mother, which went viral in November: “When my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, no one came to us and said ‘Don’t treat her, she is getting what she deserves.’”

She was warned that smoking causes lung cancer, yet she “chose every day to open another pack of cigarettes, light them up and smoke them,” said Christie. He said his family didn’t see any of the stigma attached to addiction, even though his mother’s disease “was exclusively caused by her own conduct.”

"If my mother was a heroin addict rather than a smoker, would people have reacted the same way? Would we have told people?" 

“The stigma issue has to be fixed,” he said. "It’s extraordinarily important and giving permission to people who are suffering from this disease to admit it and to seek help. And for us not to continue to make the moral judgements that we have been making."

The panel discussion "Solutions for a New Way Forward" was moderated by Scientific American publisher Jeremy Abbate, and included Leonard Campanello, police chief for Gloucester, Massachusetts; Behshad Sheldon, president and CEO of Braeburn Pharmaceuticals; and Dr. Andrea Barthwell, former Deputy Director for Demand Reduction at the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Check out the Scientific American panel discussion on opioid addiction below:



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Dorri Olds is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day and several book anthologies. Find Dorri on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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