TRENTON, N.J. --Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday announced the formation of a taskforce aimed at preventing drug dependence, strengthening services and de-stigmatizing an epidemic he has repeatedly said should be treated as a disease.
The 12-member "Facing Addiction" group, created by executive order, will be led by New Hope Baptist Church Pastor Joe Carter and will include former Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevey, former New York Jets quarterback Ray Lucas, and a handful of the governor's cabinet members.
Christie said the group would assess the state's current efforts and propose new policies.
"As an administration, we've been working hard to change the way we view addiction for the disease that it is and to remove the stigma that's associated with it," Christie told reporters after visiting the Catholic Charities' Project Free substance abuse and mental health treatment center.
He heard the stories of three women enrolled in the program. One of them, 48-year-old recovering alcoholic Kathy Case of Hamilton, described how she began drinking after the death of her father, a child at birth and her husband. The mother of two said the program had given her a second chance at life.
If not for the staff at the center, she said, "I probably wouldn't be here today. I'd probably be into the ground with my husband."
Christie has spent much of his time in recent weeks out of state, campaigning for fellow Republicans through his role as chair of the Republican Governors Association.
When at home, many of his events have been dedicated to talking about drug addiction treatment, which has become one of his signature issues as he mulls a run for president in 2016.
"This is not just an assignment. This is a mission," he said.