Elizabeth Warren Now Has A Plan To Tackle The Opioid Epidemic

The senator and 2020 presidential contender proposes spending $100 billion over the next decade on prevention and treatment.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has a plan to address the opioid epidemic that's based on legislation introduced last year.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has a plan to address the opioid epidemic that's based on legislation introduced last year.
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is proposing to spend $100 billion over the next decade to combat the opioid epidemic, the latest policy proposal from the 2020 Democratic presidential contender.

Warren is rolling out a new version of her plan ― based on legislation she initially introduced alongside Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) last year ― ahead of campaign trips this weekend to West Virginia and Ohio, two states hit hard by the opioid crisis, which has lowered the average lifespan of Americans for the first time in decades and was responsible for more than half of the record 70,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2017.

On a yearly basis, the plan would deliver $4 billion to states, municipalities and tribal governments to fight the crisis, plus an additional $2.7 billion for the hardest-hit areas; $1.7 billion for public health surveillance, research and training; and $500 million to expand access to naloxone, an overdose reversal drug. Revenue from Warren’s proposed wealth tax on fortunes of more than $50 million would pay for the plan.

Warren isn’t the only 2020 presidential contender to roll out a plan to combat the drug crisis. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) unveiled a proposal to combat drug addiction and mental health issues more broadly last week.

In a Medium post outlining her proposal, Warren tied the plan to the overall goal of her campaign: transferring power from the wealthy and connected to the middle class. She notes the West Virginia town she plans to visit on Friday, Kermit, is suing the pharmacy and wholesale drug distributor that helped flood the town of 400 people with roughly 9 million prescription opioid pills over a two-year period.

“Here’s the truth: fueling addiction is big business,” Warren writes. “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.”

She points a finger directly at the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma who turned the billions they made selling OxyContin into a real estate and philanthropic empire. Warren argues for “an America where when people like the Sacklers destroy millions of lives to make money, they don’t get museum wings named after them, they go to jail.”

“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 writes. “I think it’s time to change that.”

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