02:25 - Source: CNN
Klobuchar touts $100 billion plan to fight addiction

Editor’s Note: Amy Klobuchar is one of 10 presidential candidates taking part in a Democratic debate Tuesday, July 30, at 8 p.m. ET, on CNN. Ten others will debate on Wednesday evening. She is the senior US senator from Minnesota. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own; view more opinion at CNN.

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My own story is like a lot of families’ stories. I love my dad. Despite being a successful sports writer and columnist, he struggled with alcoholism when I was growing up. I saw him climb the highest mountains but also sink to the lowest valleys because of his battle with alcoholism.

He had three DWIs and after the third he got real treatment and was, in his own words, “pursued by grace.” Faith, treatment, friends, family and the community of people who stood by him made all the difference.

Amy Klobuchar

When it comes to mental health and addiction, I believe everyone should have the same right to be pursued by grace and receive effective treatment. These issues affect us all. In fact, almost half of Americans have a family member or close friend who has faced a drug addiction. And one in five American adults experiences a mental health condition.

So, it’s not surprising that everywhere I go, I hear stories from men and women who know someone battling with mental health issues or addiction. And yet we’re not doing enough as a country to tackle these issues and help people in need. That’s why I’ve proposed a $100 billion plan to combat substance use disorders and prioritize mental health.

I have been a leading advocate in the Senate to increase funding for local drug courts that help non-violent offenders receive the treatment they need and am one of four senators that led the initial federal blueprint bill on combating the opioid epidemic.

As President, I will launch new prevention and early intervention initiatives, expand access to treatment and give all Americans a path to sustainable recovery.

It starts with prevention. Our country has experienced a 30% increase in suicides in just fifteen years. We will further expand state and local programs aimed at detecting and responding to mental health conditions, including suicide prevention initiatives. And we’ll also make sure we are reaching the communities that are often most at risk, like veterans, farmers, and LGBTQ and tribal communities.

Opioid addiction can begin with the use of appropriately prescribed pain medications. That’s why we will promote prescription drug monitoring programs to prevent doctor shopping and invest in pain-relief alternatives to opioids. And while opioid use has skyrocketed, other communities are facing different drug problems. My plan will target increased investments in early intervention programs for drugs including cocaine and methamphetamine.

We also have to make sure people can get the care and treatment they need. In 2017, over 20 million people needed substance use treatment, but fewer than 20% were able to access it. Consider that in the entire state of Iowa, there were only 64 public beds for mental health treatment in 2016. My plan expands access to mental health, alcohol and drug treatment services by increasing the number of beds, expanding support for community behavioral health centers and addressing workforce shortages, especially in rural areas where the needs are greatest.

It’s also time we prioritized treatment over jail. As the Hennepin County Attorney, I worked to help people struggling with addiction stay out of the criminal justice system. As President, I will build on those efforts and increase federal support for drug courts, mental health courts and treatment alternatives to incarceration, and expand wraparound services and regular followups.

How will we pay for all of this? Let’s hold the opioid manufacturers responsible for their role in this crisis. By charging manufacturers and importers a small fee on prescription opioids, we can establish a permanent revenue stream that will be used to provide and expand access to both substance use and mental health treatment.

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    While mental health and addiction may not dominate the headlines, they are critical challenges we face as a country. These issues have shaped my life and the lives of countless families in America. And today we need bold, ambitious action to build a nation in which everyone has the opportunity to be pursued by grace.