Christie speaks with compassion on drug addiction and treatment
April 17th, 2014
02:53 PM ET
5 months ago

Christie speaks with compassion on drug addiction and treatment

(CNN) - Republican Gov. Chris Christie teamed up with former Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevey to talk about drug addiction on Thursday, the same day Christie signed a bill aimed to improve treatment programs in New Jersey correctional facilities and county jails.

While Christie has frequently said that drug and alcohol abuse is an issue that has touched his personal life, he elaborated further Thursday saying he recently lost a longtime and "dear" friend to addiction.

"I could tell you that as we all stood around at his wake at 52 years old, that all of us were in a sense at the same moment of both disbelief and inevitability," he said. "I said to my wife that night, 'Is it possible to be completely stunned and not the least bit surprised at the same time?' And I can tell you from just having experienced this, it is absolutely possible."

Christie made his comments in a panel discussion at the "Prisoner Re-entry: Breaking the Cycle Conference" in Jersey City.

The Republican governor said he and others tried to reach out to his friend for nearly a decade, but the individual continued to struggle.

"I was completely stunned that a guy who had been a dear friend of mine for 30 years was laying there in that coffin because he couldn't deal with the illness that he had," Christie said.

The governor has long stressed a need to break the stigma of drug addiction and boost programs to rehabilitate those struggling with drug abuse.

At his State of the State address in January, Christie introduced a member of the audience named Craig Hanlon, who he said was a drug addict at the age of 16. He went through rehab, finished high school, went to college and ultimately got a law degree. Hanlon later worked for Christie when Christie served as the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey.

"If you need proof that reclaiming a life is possible and that every life has precious value, then that proof is standing before you today," he said.

Christie also favors rehabilitation over incarceration in most cases involving nonviolent drug convictions, saying it's fiscally and morally the right thing to do, even if it means fewer jobs at prisons and other institutions.

"These are not folks who are in general a threat to the health and safety of the citizens in their neighborhoods," he said Thursday. "You just are making people further and further depressed the more you keep them in prison."

Christie's administration also recently launched a pilot program in two counties that will equip first responders to administer the antidote Narcan to those experiencing an overdose of heroin or prescription narcotic, a problem that's become what Christie calls an "epidemic" in New Jersey.

Christie, who's thinking about running for president in 2016, has repeatedly made a passionate plea for better drug rehab programs at his weekly town halls, and reiterated Thursday the issue should be one that his fellow Republicans support.

"I say to them you know, it's great to be pro-life but you need to be pro-life after they get out of the womb too. We have to be pro-life all the way along," he said. "If we believe in the sanctity of life, then we need to believe in how life is precious for every moment that God gives us. Not only the really good moments, but the really tough moments too."

He also argued the issue should be considered nonpartisan.

"I know as many drug addicted Republicans as I know drug addicted Democrats. It just is what it is," he said. "Because alcohol, prescription drugs, heroin, cocaine, they don't ask you for your party registration card when the drug dealer is selling it to you."

Christie praised McGreevey, who was moderating the discussion, saying one of the main reasons he decided to speak at the event Thursday was because he wants McGreevey to "continue to be a leader in this state on issues that he's passionate about."

In 2004, McGreevey resigned halfway through his term as governor after admitting to an extramarital affair with a male staffer. He was hired last year by the mayor of Jersey City to oversee the city's effort to guide former prison inmates back into the workforce.

McGreevey returned the praise. "Obviously I've had my own challenges in life, and there are few people who have been as decent and kind and compassionate and good as Chris Christie."

On a separate note, Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney who is investigating Christie's administration over the George Washington Bridge scandal, spoke at the same event Thursday, but he and Christie did not cross paths.

CNN's Steve Kastenbaum contributed to this report.


Filed under: Chris Christie
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    About time !

    This has been an Obama policy along with the DOJ , drug rehabilitation and treatment programs for correctional facilities and county jails.

    The GOP would not approve funding in the past .

    April 17, 2014 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    "Because alcohol, prescription drugs, heroin, cocaine, they don't ask you for your party registration card when the drug dealer is selling it to you."
    -------------------------------------–
    However when you buy alcohol & cigarettes, all you need to be is over 18 & 21. I noticed he didn't mention marijuana among those addictive drugs. Our society is so backwards when it comes to drug policy. Thank goodness for those states who are coming to their senses and either legalizing marijuana or decriminalizing it.

    April 17, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  3. 2_indy1600

    Since any positive comment on Christie will kick off the hate-fest, the comment he made about being pro-life throughout a person's life makes total sense. Maybe a GED or BA/BS should be mandatory for prison release along with drug rehab.

    April 17, 2014 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  4. smith

    Drugs are another reason we need to seal the borders. What makes Chicago so violent is the fact it is the major drug hub of the midwest. New Orleans and LA same reason for the violence.

    April 17, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  5. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Still trying to run for President. I sure hope the family of the lady riding in the ambulance wasn't there..... You know the one that died because the ambulance couldn't get through the intentional traffic jam....

    April 17, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  6. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "I say to them you know, it's great to be pro-life but you need to be pro-life after they get out of the womb too. We have to be pro-life all the way along," he said
    -------------------------------------------------
    Well said Governor.
    I agree.

    April 17, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  7. emskadittle

    he is speaking with compassion? well that would go over well with the republican base

    April 17, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    At least he's right about this issue...which won't sit well with the rabid base. Had a Dem said the same thing, we'd be hearing dog-whistles and talk about handouts and moochers and deadbeats and over-spending and "inner city culture problems" by now.

    April 17, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  9. Silence DoGood

    "I say to them you know, it's great to be pro-life but you need to be pro-life after they get out of the womb too. We have to be pro-life all the way along," he said
    -----------------
    For a GOP guy he really nailed the glaring issue with so called "pro-life" movement and that is that it is not.

    April 17, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  10. Susan McFarland

    @WakeUpPeople:
    Woman didn't die from a traffic jam, as her own daughter pointed out. The 90 plus old woman died from natural causes. Why do you insist on squirreling the truth like that? What's in it for you? All you do is make yourself look clueless. Oh well, none of my business.
    Thanks to Christie for speaking out on a subject that destroys millions of families and costs this nation a fortune.
    It's too bad we don't create a real war on drugs here.

    April 17, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  11. Malory Archer

    2_indy1600

    Since any positive comment on Christie will kick off the hate-fest, the comment he made about being pro-life throughout a person's life makes total sense. Maybe a GED or BA/BS should be mandatory for prison release along with drug rehab.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    I guess we lefties didn't get the memo. Of the eight comments posted (Sniffit's being the last one at 3:33 p.m.) at the time I typed this, not a single one of the "gang" has "kicked off the hatefest". Sounds like someone is projecting! You should head over to one of the Hillary or Joe Biden threads where you can REALLY get your hate on!

    April 17, 2014 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  12. devil's advocate

    Wonder who he knows that will likely benefit from a contract with our government.

    April 17, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    @smith: "Drugs are another reason we need to seal the borders. What makes Chicago so violent is the fact it is the major drug hub of the midwest. New Orleans and LA same reason for the violence."

    Right ..... most drug users are white ... if you think they're all going to the 'hood to get their stuff, you are sadly mistaken.

    April 17, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  14. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    It's not just Christie's ego that gets him in trouble – it's his compassion. First Hurricane Sandy, and now this – OY!

    April 17, 2014 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  15. emskadittle

    you got to the love that big rino

    April 17, 2014 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  16. Silence DoGood

    @Malory Archer
    2_indy1600

    Since any positive comment on Christie will kick off the hate-fest, the comment he made about being pro-life throughout a person's life makes total sense. Maybe a GED or BA/BS should be mandatory for prison release along with drug rehab.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    I guess we lefties didn't get the memo. Of the eight comments posted (Sniffit's being the last one at 3:33 p.m.) at the time I typed this, not a single one of the "gang" has "kicked off the hatefest". Sounds like someone is projecting! You should head over to one of the Hillary or Joe Biden threads where you can REALLY get your hate on!
    ---------
    Don't confuse a conservative ranter with the facts right in front of their eyes.
    I was one of the "leftie's" that said I liked a Christie quote!

    April 17, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  17. just saying

    ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.
    Right ..... most drug users are white ... if you think they're all going to the 'hood to get their stuff, you are sadly mistaken.
    ---

    maybe in pure numebrs because there are so many more white people, but as a percentage, your statement is false.

    April 17, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  18. smith

    @Think again- Who cares what color drug users and drug dealers are? Where do you think that crap comes from? What is it with the racecard anyways, drugs affect everyone..smh

    April 17, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  19. just asking

    why does government need to spend money on this? obamacare forces everybody to buy insurance that must cover this treatment. why are government programs like this still needed? aren't our tax dollars already going to subsidize the health insurance coverage that will pay for this treatment?

    April 17, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  20. 2_indy1600

    @Malory "Maybe you should head to a Hillary or Biden site to get your hate on."

    Thanks for holding the rabid hate off for ten minutes. Since you judge me, you're judged.

    April 17, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |