Campaigns

Klobuchar plan to combat addiction draws on experience with her dad

Policy proposal comes as part of her 2020 presidential campaign platform

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., unveiled a mental health policy proposal on Friday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s mental health plan, unveiled Friday morning, draws on proposals from several of her Senate colleagues — and it’s also a highly personal quest for the senator.

One of the early major proposals of the Minnesota Democrat’s 2020 White House campaign, it calls for aggressive investments to support mental health and treatment for addiction, including an increased focus on early intervention. It also draws on her experience with her father’s alcoholism.

“I love my dad. I saw him climb the highest mountains but also sink to the lowest valleys because of his battle. After three DWIs, he finally got real treatment and was, in his own words, ‘pursued by grace.’” Klobuchar said. “The one thing I hear over and over again across the country is people’s stories of battling with mental health and addiction — people need help, but they just can’t get it.”

Regarding that most personal point about her father’s challenges, among the proposal’s highlights are support for states to adopt the use of ignition interlock systems in response to the risks of drunk driving.

“Amy will support incentives for state governments to enact ignition interlock laws for those convicted of drunk driving to help reduce repeat offenders. Since problems with alcoholism often start early, Amy will support educational initiatives that focus on the risks of alcohol as well as early identification and treatment of alcoholism,” a summary said.

The outline of the plan released Friday also credits three of her colleagues in the Senate Democratic caucus with ideas that are included in her more comprehensive plan.

Among the proposed offsets is a two cent-per-milligram fee on active ingredients in prescription opioid medication, given the extent to which the painkillers have contributed to the epidemic of addiction. Klobuchar’s campaign is crediting Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., with a similar proposal that would impose a fee of one penny.

One piece of Klobuchar’s broader plan would provide for an expansion of treatment facilities, as well as Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics. The outline of the proposal cites legislation led by Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow as the inspiration for that provision.

And a bipartisan measure from Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., is included as the basis for a provision that would seek to enhance assurances that health insurance companies provide proper coverage for additions and mental health issues.

The proposal also cites some of Klobuchar’s own Senate legislation, including a measure that would mandate coverage of inpatient residential treatment for eating disorders.

“As part of her plan, she will make major investments in increasing access to community-based services, telehealth and a fully integrated health system, while also making inpatient services available to more people by permanently repealing Medicaid’s ‘IMD Exclusion,’ which prohibits Medicaid reimbursements for those receiving mental health or substance use care in facilities with more than 16 beds,” a summary said.

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