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Amy Klobuchar Proposes $100 Billion for Addiction and Mental Health

Published by Daniel Brooks Moore on

Senator Amy Klobuchar on Friday released a $100 billion plan to combat drug and alcohol addiction and improve mental health care, focusing one of the first detailed proposals of her presidential campaign on an issue deeply personal to her.

Ms. Klobuchar — who has spoken before about her father’s alcoholism, including memorably at Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing — said she had developed the plan and made it an early focus in part because of that personal experience and in part because of the number of addiction-related stories she had heard from voters.

The bulk of the plan is divided into three segments.

• Prevention, including funding for mental health programs at schools, training for doctors to recognize early warning signs of addiction and other mental health problems, and a requirement that doctors use prescription drug monitoring programs intended to prevent “doctor shopping,” in which patients addicted to opioids receive new prescriptions from a number of doctors.

• Treatment, including funding for addiction and mental health programs and stricter enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that insurers cover mental health care. The plan highlights in particular the need for more hospital beds and community clinics, especially in rural areas: Some of the counties hit hardest by the opioid crisis are rural, and many of them have no psychiatrists.

• “Ongoing recovery,” including job training programs, transitional housing and other social services for recovering addicts. This segment of the plan also calls for treatment instead of incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders and crisis intervention training for police officers. There have been well-publicized instances of officers shooting unarmed people — especially black men — who were behaving erratically because of a mental illness.

The plan also includes funding for suicide prevention programs focused on veterans, farmers, Native Americans and L.G.B.T.Q. people, and for “an aggressive national awareness campaign to combat stigma.”

A summary provided by Ms. Klobuchar’s campaign said she would pay for the plan by charging opioid manufacturers and importers a two-cent fee per milligram, closing the carried-interest tax loophole, barring pharmaceutical companies from paying competitors to keep generic drugs off the market, and reaching a “master settlement agreement” with opioid companies.

(As the opioid crisis has grown, so has the number of lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and distributors. Ms. Klobuchar’s plan essentially calls for one large settlement with the government, the proceeds of which would go to states to fund treatment programs and social services.)

In a statement, Ms. Klobuchar said that after three citations for driving under the influence, her father “finally got real treatment and was, in his own words, ‘pursued by grace.’”

“The one thing I hear over and over again across the country is people’s stories of battling with mental health and addiction,” she said. “People need help, but they just can’t get it. I believe everyone should have the same opportunity my dad had to be pursued by grace and get the treatment and help they need.”

Follow Maggie Astor on Twitter: @MaggieAstor.


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