Elizabeth Warren targets opioid crisis in latest policy rollout

Elizabeth Warren Senate 05072019

(CNN)Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren released an opioid crisis plan Wednesday that would provide $100 billion in treatment, provider support and research funds over 10 years.

The Massachusetts senator's announcement comes ahead of her trip to West Virginia on Friday to highlight the epidemic and as the opioid crisis has become an urgent focus on Capitol Hill and in the 2020 presidential campaign.
Warren is slated to begin a two-day trip through West Virginia and Ohio with a stop in Kermit, West Virginia, on Friday morning. A congressional report revealed last year that a pharmaceutical company had shipped more than 3 million prescription opioids over 10 months -- about 10,000 pills a day on average -- to a single pharmacy in the town of 400 people.
More than 47,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2017, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    The plan from Warren and Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, called the CARE Act, would focus on the epicenters of the opioid epidemic and provide support to state and nonprofit recovery efforts. They introduced a bill proposing similar initiatives to combat the opioid epidemic last year.
    "If the CARE Act becomes law, every single person would get the care they need," Warren wrote in a Medium post Wednesday, adding that the funds would come from her wealth tax proposal. The senator has proposed using the revenue from her wealth tax plan to pay for other policy proposals, including her student loan debt cancellation and universal child care plans.
    "Too many folks in Washington care more about protecting the wealthy from paying their fair share than they do about solving these kinds of urgent national problems," she wrote. "I want to change that."
    In the same post, Warren highlighted the opioid epidemic's acute toll on communities of color.
    "The crisis has also severely impacted communities of color, exacerbated by existing health disparities," she wrote. "For example, in 2017 the number of opioid-related deaths was 692 in Baltimore, almost as high as West Virginia, 833 -- the state with the highest death rate in the country -- with most deaths occurring in the black community."
    The plan would provide $4 billion to states, territories and tribal governments in general funding to combat the crisis. An additional $2.7 billion would go to what Warren deems the "hardest hit" cities and counties, of which $1.4 billion would go to those with the most overdoses.
    Research, public health monitoring and health worker training programs would receive $1.7 billion, and public and nonprofit support centers would receive $1.1 billion to expand and incentivize innovative treatment, recovery and harm reduction programs. Additionally, $500 million would go to expanding access to naloxone, an opioid overdose-reversing drug.
    The CARE Act would simplify the general grant application process and feature a new worker-focused grant program to prevent addiction among high-risk workers and support those trying to keep their jobs while pursuing treatment. It adds new requirements to incentivize states to expand available resources: Entities providing opioid treatment must accept Medicaid to cover a more comprehensive treatment program, and treatment and recovery programs in states looking to qualify for grants must meet standards on a shorter timeline.
    The bill would also emphasize services for possible mental health issues faced by opioid users, as well as increase funding to train treatment providers.
    The opioid epidemic is a widely discussed topic on the 2020 campaign. Sen. Amy Klobuchar released a new addiction and mental health policy plan last week.
      Speaking in Des Moines, Iowa, over the weekend, the Minnesota Democrat said of the epidemic that "the most surprising thing out there in the presidential trail that I've heard is how many people bring this up to me."
      "I've gotten all those questions about addiction and mental illness than I have about the Mueller report. True story," Klobuchar said. "And that's because it's affecting people in their everyday lives, and we're not doing enough about it."