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In latest policy push, Warren revives plan to tackle opioid crisis

2020 Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.
2020 Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated press)

Senator Elizabeth Warren is reviving a measure to tackle the opioid crisis as she continues to roll out ambitious policy proposals in her run for president.

The Massachusetts Democrat on Wednesday is bringing back a bill she first unveiled last year alongside Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings, also a Democrat: The CARE Act, which would pour $100 billion in federal money over ten years into initiatives around prevention and access to treatment.

Warren first introduced the CARE Act at an event in the South End just over a year ago. The main thrust of the legislation is the same, but she is adding measures that would aim to keep people receiving treatment in the workforce, citing statistics from the Mass. Department of Public Health that found construction workers at much higher risk for death from opioid overdoses.

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Warren said that the opioid crisis has had a severe impact on “communities of color” and tied attacking the problem to her campaign’s themes of fighting greed and corruption while standing up for average Americans.

“The ongoing opioid crisis is about health care. But it’s about more than that,” she wrote in a blog post on the Medium website Wednesday. “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.”

She called out big pharmaceutical companies, writing that “fueling addiction is big business.” Executives of those firms whose negligent actions harm people would face criminal penalties as part of Warren’s previously proposed Corporate Executive Accountability Act, she said.

The CARE Act is modeled on a landmark 1990 law passed in response to the AIDS epidemic that sent federal funding to areas harest hit by the crisis.

As part of Warren’s plan , Massachusetts could see about $56.6 million annually in state grants, plus another $63.5 million in local grants targeting the counties hardest hit by the opioid crisis. In Massachusetts, 10 out of 12 counties could be eligible for such funding under Warren’s plan.

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Nearly 2,000 people in Massachusetts lost their lives to opioid-related overdoses in 2018, according to state statistics.

“Families across this nation—in red states, blue states, and purple states, in big cities, suburbs, and rural areas—are struggling with the devastating consequences of this generational crisis that claims 192 lives every single day,” said Cummings said in a statement Wednesday.

As she seeks the Democratic nomination for president, the legislation adds to the blizzard of policy proposals that have come to define Warren’s candidacy.

Warren said her plan would be paid for with her previously announced “Ultra Millionaire” tax proposal that would target 2 percent of all assets over $50 million, and 3 percent over $1 billion.