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Pledging to Treat Opioid Epidemic 'Like the Public Health Crisis That It Is,' Warren Unveils CARE Act

"This crisis has been driven by greed, pure and simple. It's about money and power in America — who has it, and who doesn't."

Democratic presidential candiate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to a crowd during a campaign stop at Fat Hill Brewing on May 4, 2019 in Mason City, Iowa. Warren took aim at Purdue Pharma, the company that manufactures OxyContin, on Wednesday when she released her plan to combat the opioid epidemic. The crisis exploded after the company marketed the drug as non-addictive. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Vowing to hold to account the billionaire family whose pharmaceutical company fueled the opioid epidemic, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Elijah Cummings on Wednesday unveiled a sweeping plan to help end the crisis which kills tens of thousands of Americans per year.

The Democratic presidential candidate detailed the plan in a Medium post, as she has with her other policy proposals, but made it clear that she aims to pass the legislation "immediately" rather than waiting for a potential presidential term.

The plan, known as the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, would make $100 billion in federal funds available to state and local governments as well as non-profit groups which provide prevention, treatment, and harm reduction services.

Like a number of Warren's other plans, the senator said the CARE Act would be funded by her proposed Ultra-Millionaires Tax, under which the assets of families with more than $50 million would be taxed at two percent annually, raising $2.75 trillion over a decade.

By taxing the richest Americans, Warren plans to hold the Sacklers—the family which owns Purdue Pharma, the maker of one of the most widely-prescribed opioids—accountable for fueling a crisis which has killed 685,000 Americans.

"This crisis has been driven by greed, pure and simple," Warren wrote. "It's about money and power in America — who has it, and who doesn't. And it's about who faces accountability in America — and who doesn't."

"Rep. Cummings and Sen. Warren have worked hand in hand with people directly affected by the crisis to design this legislation. These voices are and will continue to be invaluable in bringing about an end to the opioid crisis."                                                                                                                                         —Jennifer Flynn Walker, Center for Popular DemocracyThe package would include $2.7 billion for counties and cities that have been hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, more than $1 billion to fund research and training for medical professionals, and $500 million to expand access to naloxone, a drug which can reverse an opioid overdose.

The CARE Act is based on the Ryan White CARE Act of 1990, which guaranteed funding to fight the AIDS epidemic, and is aimed at "providing the resources needed to begin treating this epidemic like the public health crisis that it is," Warren wrote.

The bicameral proposal is backed by nearly 100 members of Congress, the Massachusetts Democrat added, and "the nation's top experts on the crisis stand behind it."

"If we are serious about addressing the opioid crisis, we must pass the CARE Act," Jennifer Flynn Walker of the Center for Popular Democracy said in a statement. "Rep. Cummings and Sen. Warren have worked hand in hand with people directly affected by the crisis to design this legislation. These voices are and will continue to be invaluable in bringing about an end to the opioid crisis."

The Drug Policy Alliance called the proposal "a groundbreaking bill urgently needed now to end our nation's overdose crisis."

"This legislation presents a bold federal plan of action to address this national emergency of overdose deaths by prioritizing the public health needs of local communities," said Grant Smith, the group's deputy director of national affairs.

Warren noted that after spending years insisting that their opioid painkiller, OxyContin, was not addictive, the Sackler family also reportedly considered pushing for treatment availability—by manufacturing drugs used to treat opioid addiction, profiting off the crisis once again.

"Under my opioid plan," the senator said, "billionaires like the Sacklers wouldn't get to live the high life while only one out of five folks who need opioid treatment get the help they need. Instead, they would pay up to help make sure every person gets the care they need."

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