2020 Election: Elizabeth Warren wants to spend $100 billion on opioid addict battle

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday rolled out an updated version of her $100 billion plan to address the scourge of opioid addiction, a public health crisis that experts say is to blame for thousands of Americans deaths annually.

The Democratic presidential hopeful unveiled her plan as she prepares to make a campaign trip this week to Ohio and West Virginia, two states battered by opioid addiction.

The proposal, known as the CARE Act, is modeled on a 1990 law passed to fight the spread of AIDS and would be funded through a tax she wants to impose on the 75,000 wealthiest Americans. She previously introduced a version of the proposal in 2017 with Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat. 

In this file photo taken on January 12, 2019 Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), husband Bruce Mann and their dog Bailey take the stage before Warren addresses an Organizing Event as part of her exploratory presidential committee at Manchester Community College in Manchester, NH on Saturday. (Photo: JOSEPH PREZIOSO, AFP/Getty Images)

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“The ongoing opioid crisis is about health care,” Warren wrote in a Medium post detailing her plan. “But it’s about more than that. It’s about money and power in America — who has it, and who doesn’t. And it’s about who faces accountability in America — and who doesn’t.”

More than 70,000 people died from drug overdose in 2017, the highest year on record, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Health experts say the majority of those deaths were due to opioid crisis.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, another Democratic presidential hopeful, introduced a $100 billion drug addiction and mental health plan last week. The Klobuchar plan includes calls for expanding access to treatment for people addicted to opioids and having the government negotiate the price of Naloxone in order to make it more affordable.

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Emergency department visits for opioid overdoses rose 30% in all parts of the US from July 2016 through September 2017, CDC data shows. The Midwest saw opioid-related emergency department visits spike 70% during that period.

Under Warren’s decade-long plan, the federal government would distribute the money for public health surveillance, research, and to bolster training for health professionals.

The proposal also calls for boosting funding to public agencies and nonprofit groups for treatment, recovery and harm reduction services. Warren also wants to spend more than $500 million a year to expand access for first responders to the overdose reversal drug Naloxone.

Warren is scheduled to visit Kermit, W.V., on Friday. The community of about 400 people in the state’s southern coalfields saw out-of-state drug companies ship nearly 9 million hydrocodone pills to a single pharmacy over a two-year period, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

The town in 2017 filed a lawsuit against five of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical drug wholesalers and a local pharmacy owner, claiming they illegally flooded town with prescription drugs.

“The opioid epidemic teaches us that too often in America today, if you have money and power, you can take advantage of everyone else without consequence,” Warren said. “I think it’s time to change that.”

The plan on fighting opioid epidemic is Warren’s latest campaign proposal that she she says could be paid for through a $2.75 trillion tax hike on American households  making more than $50 million. She has previously announced proposals to to cancel college debt for most Americans and fund universal childcare.

Follow USA TODAY national political reporter Aamer Madhani on Twitter: @AamerISmad


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