Date: Jun 3, 2019
Battle-tested Public Servant Aims to Make Florida a Leader in Addiction Recovery
Meet John Hulick who served as drug czar for New Jersey and is now drug czar for Palm Beach County.
As the book “Dreamland” notes, the focal point of ending the opioid epidemic in the public sector is the county level. Among our nation’s 3,000 counties vital services converge – law enforcement, fire and EMS, public health departments and social welfare agencies. John Hulick had a number of career paths he could have chosen after working for Gov. Chris Christie, a national leader on the opioid epidemic. His journey led him to a critical Florida county that embodies our national struggle with the opioid epidemic and addiction treatment in particular. John brings more to the job than a resume. His gut-wrenching personal experience with substance abuse is key to his success. Read More…
County Coordination John was appointed to his county position just over a year ago and his formal title is senior program manager, substance abuse. The strategy is to create a coordinated and integrated response to the opioid epidemic, which as he puts it, is easier said than done. A key priority is the measuring and monitoring of recovery capital. Individuals who attain such capital, i.e. housing, employment, transportation, and other necessities have a better chance of avoiding relapse. But recovery capital is also the means to engage with the community to reduce isolation, restore relationships broken by addiction and improve physical and mental health.
Trenton news coverage of Paige’s ordeal.
John is working to include long-term measurable outcomes and recovery to enhance county-wide efforts of short-term interventions such as detox and traditional treatment programs.
To see John at work, here he is appearing before Palm Beach county commissioners.
New Jersey / New challenge
Although John had years of experience in New Jersey including spearheading the passage of legislation to expand drug courts and develop consumer protections in the addiction treatment industry, nothing is quite like serving under a high-profile governor. Especially one whose policy agenda centered on reducing deaths in a growing drug epidemic. Chris Christie helped make the opioid epidemic a national cause and John’s difficult task was implementing the governor’s vision in Trenton.
He joined the Administration in 2010 beginning as a policy adviser to two key departments: Human Services and Children and Families. These agencies provide an array of social services; John’s challenge was to push innovation like emphasizing treatment options over incarceration. Just over a year later, John became Executive Director of the Governor’s Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, a position informally known as drug czar. Here his focus turned to directly addressing the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic.
To see Gov. Christie’s passion on this issue, here he is on the campaign trail in 2015.
Tragedy to Triumph
John is in recovery from alcoholism for more than three decades. He has the unique ability to marry his addiction policy and service expertise with very personal experiences. He has been informed the most by navigating the care of his daughter’s early onset mental illness and subsequent heroin addiction. John spent about ten years navigating a mental health and addiction treatment system he largely helped advance through funding in the state legislature. As a parent, a number of questions were raised about how to instill better processes and procedures for those finding care for a loved one. John says he lost count of how many addiction treatment facilities he worked with for his daughter Paige, estimating the number to be around 30. Like many parents, it became a situation of in John’s words, “throw your hands up in the air, I don’t care where she goes, just get her off the street.” Later in life Paige was the victim of an attempted murder on the streets of Trenton and suffered a traumatic brain injury and a subsequent coma. Although still re-developing her cognitive functions, he describes her ability to survive the ordeal as a miracle.
Watch John discuss his career and personal experience with addiction and mental health.
Trenton news coverage of Paige’s ordeal.