It’s not hard to find evidence that overdose deaths are rising since the pandemic began. It can be a mere coincidence, or as some say, it can be attributed to the lockdown and apprehension about an uncertain future.
No matter how you analyze things, it seems counterproductive – even bizarre – to close drug treatment centers.
But that’s what happened a short while ago to the adolescent treatment center at Daytop Mendham.
For years, Daytop was not only a respected treatment facility in northwest New Jersey, it was warmly embraced and supported by a variety of influential public officials.
Prominent on that list have been Chris Christie, who lives nearby, and John Sette, the long time chair of the Morris County Republican Committee.
Ironically, the first signs of trouble date back to the Christie Administration. In what seems to be the law of unintended consequences, the state in 2014 moved management of adolescent treatment centers like Daytop from the state Human Services Department to the Department of Children & Families.
That brought care for adolescents under one umbrella but that’s only part of the story.
Daytop also had to deal with changing philosophy.
Under the Murphy Administration, the thinking has been to remove young people from the criminal justice system, which in many ways can be a positive thing. Yet on the other hand, that can make it harder for youth to be identified as in need of substance abuse services. Moreover, current state thinking is that adolescents are better off receiving treatment in their homes.
Critics scoff at this reasoning, noting that “at home” likely is where an adolescent’s problems began.
No matter, the result was that Daytop was getting fewer referrals and eventually had to shut the Mendham facility. Daytop still operates outpatient facilities and adult treatment centers around the state, but in many ways, Daytop Mendham was the focal point of its program.
James P. Curtin, the Daytop CEO, was hopeful back in February that the center had enough political juice to ward off closure.
At the time, he diplomatically acknowledged that Gov. Phil Murphy didn’t create the situation that led to declining clients, but that only he could solve it.
There were even plans for Curtin and other Daytop supporters to make their case at Legislative hearings.
But then the pandemic arrived and pushed all other issues aside.