Ill. senator: More needs to be done in fight against opioid abuse

Sen. Tammy Duckworth said there needs to be more effort in making sure addicts have access to treatment

By Scott Cousins
The Telegraph

GRANITE CITY, Ill. — U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, said more must be done to combat opioid abuse, and used that to springboard into a discussion about Republican efforts to make major changes in the federal healthcare system.

Duckworth spoke to media after touring Chestnut Health System’s Granite City office. Her visit comes on the heels of visits by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, to several local hospitals last week.

“The work that being done at facilities like this certainly helps families all over Illinois,” she said. “The opioid epidemic has devastated men, women and children all across this country, and it’s something that families living here know especially well.”

The company provides services to approximately 10,000 people in Madison, St. Clair and surrounding counties.

Brent Cummins, director of adult addiction treatment and recovery support, said opioid addiction remains a major problem, and had been generally the “drug of choice” for approximately 60 percent of their clients with drug issues.

Duckworth said there needs to be more work in making sure people have access to treatment.

“What’s great about my visit here is really the partnership between this facility, the community and state and local government,” she said. “I know we need to do so much more.”

She then expressed “disappointment” in President Donald Trump and senior Republicans for what would result in major reductions in available resources.

“Not only does it cut budgeting and makes care harder to access, this Trump bill gives billions of dollars in handouts to the very same pharmaceutical companies that have helped contribute to the opioid crisis today,” she said, adding it was “shameful” and she and others were “pushing back.”

“The GOP health care bill cuts 800 billion from Medicaid, and President Trump’s budget cuts another $600 billion, so it’s over a trillion dollars in cuts to Medicaid.”

She said that would “devastate” programs like the ones at Chestnut.

Under current Republican proposals, Chestnut officials said between 80-90 percent of their patients could be significantly impacted by major cuts.

Duckworth said later that day she had to be back in Washington, D.C. to vote on healthcare.

“We’re going back to this fight over ‘Trumpcare’ and the significant cuts it makes to programs like Medicaid,” she said.

She cited her work on a number of bills, including the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act, which provides help for community-based programs; and in fighting pharmaceutical companies over increases in drug prices, such as the anti-overdose medicine Naloxone.

She said the company, Kaleo Pharma, that makes the drug and delivery system has dramatically increased its price over the past three years.

“It went from less than $700 per unit in 2014 to $4,500 today,” she said. “We’re working to hold them accountable.”

However, the company cites the donation of quarter-million Naloxone injectors to first-responders since October 2014.

She acknowledged that the ACA has problems, but they are not allowed to do anything about it.

“That’s what’s really frustrating to me,” she said.

“We can’t even talk about the fixes we want to work on…because we’re stuck in this cycle of trying to repeal the ACA,” she said.

Duckworth’s suggestion was that moderates need to lead the charge for real reform.

“I think the moderates should get together,” she said.

Copyright 2017 The Telegraph

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