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Warren Announces Her Latest Effort to Combat the Opioid Crisis

— May 16, 2019

Elizabeth Warren likens the opioid epidemic to the AIDS crisis and says that real funding is needed to combat it.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) recently rolled out what’s being referred to as the “most ambitious federal proposal to tackle the opioid epidemic thus far.”  The proposal, an updated version of the CARE Act, would allocate $100 billion over ten years to fight the crisis.

The bill “is the only one that really grasps the nettle of how big the problem is,” Keith Humphreys, a drug policy expert at Stanford University said. “Whatever else people might say about it, this is the first thing that really recognizes that [the opioid crisis] is a massive public health problem, like AIDS, and is not going to be solved by a tweak here, a tweak there.”

Warren is known for her many policy proposals and efforts to fight against large banks and credit card companies, but she has also established a reputation of tackling the opioid crisis and has asked for more research into alternative painkillers.

Warren Announces Her Latest Effort to Combat the Opioid Crisis
Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash

“Our communities are on the front lines of the epidemic, and they’re working hard to fight back,” Warren said of the CARE Act. “But they can’t do it alone.  They can’t keep nibbling around the edges.”

Advocates and industry experts have long argued that tens of billions of dollars over the next few years is needed to adequately combat the crisis.  Besides Warren, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), one of Warren’s opponents in the Democratic primaries, also released a plan to spend $100 billion on addiction and mental health services over ten years.

Warren said, “The federal response was constantly too little, too late.”  So, she reached out to these individuals and asked what they felt would finally turn the opioid epidemic around.  She then came up with an appropriate figure based on these discussions.

The CARE Act would authorize $100 billion to address drug addiction in the U.S. over ten years, with the goal of boosting addiction treatment to fight against overdose deaths.  It would be paid for through a previously proposed wealth tax on those who bring in substantial incomes – the wealthiest members of society.  Warren explained, “If you have more than $50 million, we’re going to ask you to pay a tax of 2 cents per dollar on every dollar after your fifty-millionth and first.  It raises $2.75 trillion over the next ten years — enough to pay for my plans to cancel student loan debt and provide universal free college, fully fund universal childcare, and end the opioid epidemic. And guess what — we’d still have nearly a trillion dollars left over.”

The funds would go towards states, territories, and tribal governments, as well as local governments and nonprofit programs.  Some of the money would be allocated to innovative treatment models, and some would be dedicated to expanding access to naloxone.  The bill would ask the secretary of health and human services to develop standards for the treatment that receives funding.

“As the AIDS crisis got worse and worse back in the 1980s and into the ’90s, Congress kept offering little bits of treatment.  And the crisis deepened,” Warren explained. “It wasn’t until a little boy named Ryan White declared that he had AIDS that Congress was moved to act.  They put real money into research and treatment.  And it brought down the new instances of HIV/AIDS and developed a treatment that has kept people alive for years now.”  She likens the current epidemic to the nation’s AIDS issue and insists sufficient funding is the first step in combating it.


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