(PARAMUS, NJ) – On Friday, U.S. Senator Cory Booker and U.S. Representative Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) joined County Executive James J. Tedesco, III, County Commissioners Tracy Silna Zur and Rafael Marte, Sheriff Anthony Cureton, Assemblywoman Lisa Swain, and Bergen New Bridge Medical Center President and CEO Deborah Visconi on a visit of Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, the largest hospital in New Jersey.

The visit culminated in a tour of Bergen New Bridge Medical Center’s facilities, including the Substance Use Disorder Treatment Program. Senator Booker and Congressman Gottheimer also announced the introduction of federal legislation to help combat the opioid epidemic by expanding access to drug test strips through the new Preventing Overdoses with Test Strips Act.

Last year, Bergen County saw 480 opioid-related overdoses. Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, a regional leader in substance use disorder treatment, provides lifesaving and necessary services to the people of Bergen County and northern New Jersey.

Since taking office in 2015, Bergen County Executive Tedesco administration has spearheaded efforts to revitalizing the County’s public hospital, now known as Bergen New Bridge Medical Center. These efforts have drastically expanded access and services to the people of Bergen County and beyond with the help of county, state, and federal partners.

Just last year, Bergen New Bridge received $2 million in federal community project funding to support the expansion project of the Behavioral Health Emergency Department. Investment in projects like this will help Bergen New Bridge maintain momentum as the hospital continues to undergo one of the most significant healthcare transformations in the United States.

“Today was yet another great day for Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, the largest hospital in New Jersey, as we welcomed Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Gottheimer to witness firsthand a comeback story for the ages and to introduce critical legislation that will combat the ongoing opioid epidemic,” said Bergen County Executive James Tedesco. “I thank Senator Booker and Congressman Gottheimer for their continued support of the County hospital and for their continued leadership in Washington on behalf of all Bergen County residents.”

“We are grateful to Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Josh Gottheimer for their attention and advocacy on this challenging issue," said Bergen County Commissioner Rafael Marte. "These test strips are critical in saving the lives of those struggling with addiction by preventing overdoses and providing an opportunity to seek assistance.”

"Drugs laced with fentanyl are destroying too many lives, in Bergen County and our country," said Bergen County Commissioner Tracy Zur. "This legislation gives those battling addiction a chance to avoid the death sentence of synthetic opioids and access the care they need to combat their illness."  

“America is struggling with addiction and Americans are dying at alarming rates. This is a public health crisis. We must educate our communities about the danger of fentanyl contamination,” said Deborah Visconi, President and CEO of Bergen New Bridge Medical Center. “Preventing overdoses can only happen through broader access to stigma free treatment, education, and Fentanyl test strips.  Bergen New Bridge is uniquely positioned to address the fentanyl crisis and end the heartbreak and devastation so many families have endured from fatal overdoses. But we cannot do this work without continued funding and support, which is why we are appreciative to Senator Booker and the legislation he has put forth and our County Executive and partners for their dedication to working with us to end the opioid epidemic and save countless lives.”

“For decades, America has waged a War on Drugs that has been disastrous for the most marginalized people in our nation,” said Sen. Booker. “Repeating the failed drug policies of the past will not solve the opioid crisis that our nation currently faces and will instead only perpetuate problems. A public health crisis requires a public health response, and expanding access to lifesaving test strips, which allow people to check if a pill or drug contains a fatal substance, is essential to reducing the record number of deaths caused by the opioid epidemic.”

“In recent years, Bergen New Bridge Medical Center has made critical investments to better serve its patients,” continued Sen. Booker. “I was proud to visit the center and discuss its multifaceted approach to treat substance use disorders, which has been critical in helping our state fight the opioid epidemic.”

“Across Jersey and our nation, the fentanyl epidemic is tearing families and communities apart. We all wish there was a magic bullet to stop addiction and abuse. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t exist. That’s why we all must come together — Democrats and Republicans — to do everything we can to stop the disease of opioid addiction,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “I’m proud to help lead in the House the Preventing Overdoses with Test Strips Act — a commonsense and proven step to protecting the lives of our loved ones.“

To combat the growing opioid epidemic, during the press conference County Executive Tedesco also announced the deployment of Narcan in all County facilities as well as training available to all Bergen County employees on how to administer the medicine.

Full text of the Preventing Overdoses with Test Strips Act can be found here.

Video of today’s announcement can be found here.

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