February 6, 2015
Andrew Kitchenman
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In recent years, many of the bestselling new medications haven’t been traditional drugs chemically synthesized in labs. Instead, they belong to a growing class of “biologics” -- substances that are cultivated from living cells, often by altering the DNA that carries genetic information.

Biologics have been a boon to those with a variety of conditions, and are widely used to treat rheumatoid arthritis as well as to fight infections in chemotherapy patients. But these products often are expensive to develop and buy, racking up $66.3 billion in sales nationally in 2013. That’s why the 2010 Affordable Care Act included a provision to encourage the development of generic products that would be similar to but cheaper than the name-brand biologics.

New Jersey laws don’t cover how these so-called biosimilars should prescribed, which is why the Legislature is grappling with ways to regulate them. Biologics-industry representatives have supported state-level legislation addressing biosimilars prescriptions across the country. In fact, biosimilars aren’t yet available in the United States but could result in significant savings if the federal Food and Drug Administration approves.

N.J. 'Pay it Forward' task force to study waiving tuition and letting students pay with future earnings
February 6, 2015
Adam Clark
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New Jersey will create a task force to study how to make college more affordable for the state's students under a law signed Thursday.

The commission will study a "Pay it Forward Pilot Program," in which public college and universities could waive tuition and fees in favor of taking a percentage of students' future earnings. It will also study several other ways to reduce college costs, including an accelerated program for high school students interested in pursuing a career in medicine.

New Jersey's public four year colleges rank among the most expensive in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Education rankings.

Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden), one of the bill's cosponsors, said New Jersey needs to better compete with the schools in neighboring states that lure its students.

"This migration hurts our schools and it hurts us as a state since many of these students will take jobs and settle in these states," Lampitt said. "Making our schools more affordable can help us better compete, and keep students who after graduation will help contribute to our economy."

Christie vetoed prior versions of the bill which called for staff from the executive branch to work on the study, because he said it would duplicate work the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education was already doing.

Teachers would get more training on suicide under bill

Asbury Park Press
January 25, 2015
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Public school teachers would undergo more suicide prevention education under a proposal from a bipartisan group of New Jersey lawmakers.

An Assembly committee approved the measure late last year while Republican state Sen. Diane Allen introduced a similar bill in the Senate this month.

The bill requires public school teachers and staff to receive two hours of suicide prevention training from a licensed health care professional every year, up from the current requirement of two hours over five years.

Democratic Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt said she and her colleagues are pursuing the change now because of the increased use of technology by students and the rise of bullying over text messages that could contribute to suicides.

The requirement that teachers undergo suicide prevention education reaches back to 2005 legislation that established the current requirement. Gov. Richard Codey signed the bill into law in 2006, making New Jersey the first state in the country to enact such a requirement.

New Jersey has a youth suicide rate of about 5 per 100,000 people, compared with nearly 8 per 100,000 nationally in 2012, the most recently available statistics from the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. The report defines youth as people from ages 10 to 24.

NJ considers dispensing quick and healthy breakfast at schools

January 20, 2015
Phil Gregory
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In an effort to get more students to participate in school breakfast programs, New Jersey lawmakers are hoping to enlist the help of a healthier version of a vending machine.

A bill advanced by an Assembly committee would create a pilot program in three school districts to make breakfast food available at kiosks stationed near a school entrance.

That would allow students to have easy access to breakfast without having to pay for a full-price meal price in the school cafeteria, said Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt.

"If you want to get the yogurt in a tube or grab a banana, you¹re able to acquire nutritious items in a more cost effective way," said Lampitt, D-Camden.

Adele LaTourette, director of the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition, said a healthy breakfast can help kids learn.

"It feeds their brain. It makes sure that they have fewer issues in the classroom," she testified before the committee. "They're able to sit still, they're able to absorb information, and they're less of a problem."

Jennifer Maloney with the New Jersey Principals and Superintendents Association agreed with the strategy as a way of increasing student participation in school breakfast programs.

Bill to Create Alert System For Missing Persons With Developmental Disabilities Clears Assembly

The Bergen Dispatch
December 18, 2014
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Legislation introduced by Assembly Democrats Pamela R. Lampitt, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Daniel Benson, Gabriela Mosquera and Grace L. Spencer to facilitate the immediate circulation of information about missing persons with developmental disabilities was approved Thursday by the General Assembly.

The bill (A-2709) would establish the “Gold Alert System,” a cooperative effort between law enforcement agencies and media outlets to broadcast emergency alerts about missing persons with developmental disabilities. The alerts would include physical descriptions and other pertinent details. Under the bill, consent must be obtained prior to disseminating information about the person who is believed to be missing.

“This legislation reflects our collective duty to protect some of the most vulnerable New Jersey residents,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “We must do all we can to ensure missing individuals can return home safe and sound, especially when we have all the necessary resources already in place.”

“When it comes to recovering a person who’s gone missing, we know that time is of the essence and knowledge is power,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “By creating widespread awareness as soon as possible, we can maximize the likelihood that a missing person will be found alive and unharmed.”