As reported by nj.com, Attorney General Paula Dow, flanked by county prosecutors and state officials, formally unveiled a group of reforms designed to eliminate the abuse of anabolic steroids in New Jersey’s law enforcement ranks.
The measures, recommended by a panel Dow formed in December, pave the way for police departments to randomly test officers for steroids, increase safeguards in taxpayer-funded prescription drug plans, and heighten scrutiny of physicans who improperly prescribe steroids and human growth hormone. The reforms follow a series of Star-ledger reports about the use of steroids in law enforcement. The newspaper found at least 248 officers and firefighters obtained the substances from an unscrupulous Jersey City physician, Joseph Colao. In most cases, they used their government benefits to pay for drugs that ran as much as $1,100 a month. Taxpayers picked up the bill, which amounted to millions of dollars.
“The investigative series done by The Newark Star-Ledger highlighted the damage that can be done when a doctor’s actions go unchecked and individuals become aware of the opportunity to obtain medications they may not be entitled to,” Dow said at a press conference in Hamilton. “The cost is borne not just by taxpayers, but in the erosion of faith people have in those who protect and serve. This is unacceptable.”
Among the initiatives, state guidelines on drug-testing will be rewritten to explicitly authorize departments to randomly test their officers for steroids. The guidelines will also allow chiefs or prosecutors to test officers if they have a “reasonable suspicion” of steroid use or as a condition of fitness-for-duty evaluations.
Other measures include:
· Any officer who tests positive will be required to provide a note from a physician confirming that the use of steroids or human growth hormone is for a legitimate medical condition and that the officer is fit for duty.
· Departments are encouraged to require officers to self-report prescriptions for anabolic steroids and human growth hormone based on the authority to determine fitness for duty.
. Dow will recommend prescriptions for steroids or growth hormone be filled largely by mail order through Medco, the state’s pharmacy benefits manager. The provision is meant to help Medco spot potential abuses.
· A “working group” of prosecutors, investigators and attorneys who regularly handle prescription fraud cases will meet quarterly to share information and ensure the changes are being implemented. The group will also aggressively investigate tips from the public, informants, and criminal defendants seeking plea deals.
· The state Board of Medical Examiners, which oversees doctors in New Jersey, will convene a committee of experts to review current regulations regarding steroids and growth hormone and to recommend changes meant to curtail prescriptions for anti-aging purposes.
. Growth hormone will be added to the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, which is now in development. When complete, the program will track all prescriptions of controlled dangerous substances.