Klobuchar releases $100B substance abuse, mental health plan

CHICAGO (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar has released a plan to spend $100 billion over a decade to improve mental health care and fight substance abuse, an issue the Minnesota senator has faced firsthand as the daughter of an alcoholic who struggled with addiction for years before getting sober.

The wide-ranging plan, released Friday, includes funding for early intervention of mental health disorders and drug use, a national suicide prevention campaign, better access to opioid addiction and other types of treatment and recruitment of health care workers to underserved rural areas and cities with the highest need.

Klobuchar also says that as president she would prioritize mental health and substance abuse treatment over incarceration for nonviolent offenders, noting she supported drug courts as an alternative to jail when she was the lead prosecutor of Minnesota's largest county.

Klobuchar, who announced her 2020 campaign in February, speaks often about her father's alcoholism and the impact it had on her life, and she says it's one of the issues she hears most about from people as she campaigns for the Democratic nomination in a crowded field of candidates . She says her father got "real treatment" after his third arrest for driving while intoxicated. He has remained sober with support from friends, family and his faith, what he calls being "pursued by grace," she says.

"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," she says. "I believe everyone should have the same opportunity my dad had to be pursued by grace and get the treatment and help they need."

The $100 billion would come largely from opioid manufacturers, with Klobuchar saying the companies should be held responsible for helping create the country's opioid crisis. The plan would provide considerably more money than previous drug abuse efforts — the opioid bill President Donald Trump signed last year provided $6 billion over two years — but relies on the passage of new legislation and approval of a massive legal settlement that's not yet in the works.

Klobuchar would impose a new fee of 2 cents per milligram of the active ingredient in a prescription pain pill, which she says would be paid by the manufacturer or the importer and provide a permanent revenue stream for her plan. The pharmaceutical industry pushed back against a similar proposal in New York, saying it would lead to higher prices for consumers. Klobuchar's plan would exempt the fee on some opioids, such as those used in cancer treatment.

Klobuchar also is proposing a master settlement agreement between the drugmakers and state and local governments that have sued them, a deal that would be similar to the 1998 tobacco settlement between states and the nation's five largest cigarette manufacturers.

Klobuchar's suicide prevention program would include campaigns targeted toward veterans, farmers, LGBTQ people and tribal communities, which all see suicide rates higher than average.

She wants better enforcement of laws requiring health insurance companies to cover mental illnesses and substance use disorders the way they cover physical illnesses, and she would increase access to medication-assisted treatment in federal and state prisons to help inmates safely detox from opioids and stay clean.

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Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar throughout her political career
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Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar throughout her political career
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, conducts a hearing on "pay-for-delay" deals between pharmaceutical companies and their generic drug competitors, which critics say keep cheaper forms of medicine off the market, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 23, 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Hennepin County, Minn., Attorney Amy Klobuchar and President Clinton look on in the East Room of the White House Tuesday April 25, 2000, as Attorney General Janet Reno discussed reviving stalled hate-crimes legislation. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, left, and prosecutor Alan Harris talk with reporters, Thursday, April 3, 2003, in Minneapolis after former Minnesota Twins play Kirby Puckett was found not guilty in the alleged sexual assault of a woman in a restaurant bathroom last September. (AP Photo/bill alkofer)
UNITED STATES - JULY 11: Candidate Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. (Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - Nov. 08: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., looks at a chart from Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., a member of the agriculture panel and chair of the Senate Budget Committee, during a news conference on the farm program reauthorization bill. Senate progress on the $288 billion measure to renew farm programs ground to a halt Nov. 6 as Democrats and Republicans clashed over which amendments can be offered. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly)
Washington, UNITED STATES: US Senator Barbara Boxer (L), D-CA, and Senator-elect Amy Klobuchar (R), D-MN, walk past a group of photographers as they arrive for a bipartisan Senate Women Power Workshop at the office of Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, 14 November 2006 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
From left, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., react as they are acknowledged by President Barack Obama, Friday, June 1, 2012, at Honeywell in Golden Valley , Minn. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 13: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., second from right, poses for a photo opp with Democratic Senators-elect. Reid will take over as Majority Leader when the 110th Congress begins in January 2007. LEFT TO RIGHT: James Webb, D-Va., Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Reid, and Jon Tester, D-Mont. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 25: Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic senator from Minnesota, waves to the crowd after speaking during day one of the 2008 Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 25, 2008. The DNC will be held from Aug. 25-28. (Photo by Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - June 12: At a news conference on oil dependence and global warming, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., checks out a Miles ZX405, an all-electric vehicle produced by Miles Electric Vehicles. The company was founded in 2004 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Miles Rubin. The ZX405 is capable of 25mph and has a range of 40-50 miles. Miles Electric Vehicles is owned by Miles Automotive Group, Ltd, and headquartered at the historic Santa Monica Airport in Santa Monica, CA. (photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
Accompanied by Senators Linsey Graham (L) and Amy Klobuchar (R), US Senator John McCain (C) answers questions during a press conference at the US embassy in Tokyo on April 10, 2009. The three senators are here to exchange views with Japanese officials. AFP PHOTO/Toru YAMANAKA (Photo credit should read TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. are seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, prior to the start of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., left, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., right, and Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., second from right, leave the Senate chamber as the leadership negotiates a solution to the "fiscal cliff," the automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts that could kick in Jan. 1., at the Capitol in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 26: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) walks on stage to deliver remarks on the second day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Philadelphia, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 15: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) listens to testimony during the confirmation hearing of U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr January 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. Barr, who previously served as Attorney General under President George H. W. Bush, was confronted about his views on the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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Klobuchar's background also played a role in her questioning of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last year, a moment that helped raise her national profile.

Klobuchar asked Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman years earlier when they were in high school, whether he ever had had so much to drink that he didn't remember what happened. Kavanaugh, who denied the assault allegation, turned the question around, asking Klobuchar, "Have you?"

Klobuchar continued, unruffled, as Kavanaugh asked again. Kavanaugh later apologized to Klobuchar.

"When you have a parent who's an alcoholic, you're pretty careful about drinking," she said. "I was truly trying to get to the bottom of the facts and the evidence."

Klobuchar will promote her plan during campaign stops Friday in Detroit, where she will speak to a group of African American local government leaders, and in upcoming visits to Iowa and New Hampshire.

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