Warren highlights plan to combat opioid crisis ahead of swing through hard-hit areas

The presidential candidate is proposing a $100 billion plan over 10 years to fund the front lines of the addiction epidemic.
Image: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to reporters at Texas Southern University in Houston on April 24, 2019.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks to reporters at Texas Southern University in Houston on April 24, 2019.Sergio Flores / Getty Images file

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By Ali Vitali

WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., announced Wednesday that she will re-introduce a bill aimed at combating the nation's opioid epidemic, calling it a "public health crisis" that she plans to highlight with a campaign trail swing through West Virginia and Ohio, two states hard-hit by the crisis.

The plan — called the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, which Warren partnered on with Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. — carries an estimated price tag of $100 billion over 10 years and seeks to push dollars toward opioid ravaged states, counties and communities through competitive grants.

Included in those federal dollars will be money to train public health professionals and first responders on the front lines of the opioid epidemic, as well as billions for expanded research and millions toward greater access to drugs like Naloxone, which can treat opioid overdoses.

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Warren plans to pay for this plan with money generated by her "ultra millionaires tax," which she estimates will bring in $2.75 trillion — enough to pay for most of her sweeping policy plans, including battling opioids, funding universal childcare and canceling student loan debt for millions of students.

Warren will follow the reintroduction of the CARE Act with a campaign swing through West Virginia and Ohio, specifically stopping in Kermit, West Virginia— a small town with a population in the thousands that was flooded with millions of pills over just a few years and is now suing pharmaceutical distributors.

"Here’s the truth," Warren wrote in a Medium post also released Wednesday. "Fueling addiction is big business. The five companies being sued by Kermit earned $17 billion shipping prescription opioids to West Virginia during the period in question, and their CEOs took home millions in bonuses and pay. This crisis has been driven by greed, pure and simple."

Those drug company executives, Warren said, should be held accountable for “deliberately" harming people "through criminal negligence.” To her, this means these execs “don’t just pay a fine, they face real criminal penalties.

While Warren has set the pace for releasing policy among the crowded field of Democrats vying for the 2020 presidential nomination, she is not alone in pushing a plan to beat the opioid crisis.

Last week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., released a broad plan to combat substance abuse and addiction — including to opioids — as well as treat mental health. On prevention of opioid addiction, Klobuchar would look to curb "doctor shopping" with prescription drug monitoring programs, build on drug take-back programs, and push for the development of pain treatment alternatives.

Klobuchar's plan would also cost roughly $100 billion and would be paid for, in part, she told NBC News, by the money from lawsuits against drug companies that are currently working their way through the legal system