CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Ahead of her planned stops in West Virginia and Ohio, Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren unveiled a proposal for addressing the national opioid epidemic.
The Massachusetts senator on Wednesday announced she and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., are reintroducing the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency Act, which would dedicate billions of federal dollars for prevention and addiction treatment services.
“Resources would be used to support the whole continuum of care, from early intervention for those at risk for addiction, to harm reduction for those struggling with addiction, to long-term support services for those in recovery,” Warren wrote in a Medium post.
“Along with addiction treatment, the CARE Act would ensure access to mental health services and help provide critical wraparound services like housing support and medical transportation for those who need them.”
The legislation would provide state and local governments with $100 billion in federal funding over a decade. This spending would include $4 billion for state, territory and tribal governments; $2.7 billion for counties and cities hardest hit by the misuse of opioids; $1.7 billion for public health surveillance, research and training; and $1.1 billion for public and nonprofit groups.
“But the CARE Act doesn’t just provide resources to communities; it also works to strengthen our addiction treatment infrastructure — demanding states use Medicaid to its fullest to tackle the crisis, expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, and ensuring treatment programs and recovery residences meet high standards,” Warren said.
The legislation is modeled after the Ryan White CARE Act, a 1990 law regarding funding resources for HIV/AIDS treatment.
The plan comes amid persisting concerns on the impact of opioid addiction; life expectancy in the United States declined between 2015 and 2017 as drug overdose deaths increased. More than 70,000 Americans died in 2017 from drug overdose deaths; West Virginia has the highest rate of deaths in the country with 57.8 deaths per 100,000 people, and Ohio is second with a rate of 46.3 deaths.
According to a report from Warren’s office, West Virginia would receive an estimated $25.1 million a year in state formula grants with the chance to apply for more monies from a grant program worth $1.6 billion. Clinic and nonprofits could apply for $1 billion in available annual grants. The state’s hardest hit communities would receive $24.6 million annually based on the legislation’s funding formula.
Kanawha County would receive the most money annually with $3.7 million followed by Cabell County with $3.4 million.
The proposal was announced two days before Warren is scheduled to stop in Kermit as well as Chillicothe, Ohio, and Columbus. Warren is also scheduled to be in Cincinnati on Saturday.
The senator cited Kermit in explaining her approach to the opioid crisis; she noted the millions of pills sent to the town and a lawsuit it filed in January 2017 against five of the country’s largest pharmaceutical drug wholesalers. Warren also said the companies mentioned in the lawsuit earned $17 billion in shipping opioids to West Virginia.
“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. I think it’s time to change that,” she said.
The legislation would be funded by one of Warren’s proposals: an “ultra-millionaire tax” on households with a net worth of more than $50 million. These households would pay a 2% tax on every dollar between $50 million and $1 billion and a 3% tax on every dollar more than $1 billion. The Warren campaign estimates the tax on around 75,000 households would result in $2.75 trillion in revenue over 10 years.
While a similar version of the CARE Act failed to pass last year, Warren said lawmakers should reconsider it.
“We should pass it — not in two years, not after the 2020 elections — but immediately,” she said. “If we don’t, it will be because politicians who have spent years wringing their hands about this crisis aren’t willing to do what’s necessary to end it.”
The Warren campaign additionally plans to donate money a member of the Sackler family contributed during Warren’s 2018 reelection bid; the Sackler family owns Purdue Pharma, one of the country’s leading opioid manufacturers.