In 2017, life expectancy in the United States went down.
Let me repeat that: Nearly two decades into the 21st century, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, life expectancy went down.
And it was largely driven by the opioid epidemic.
Emergency room visits for opioid overdoses have skyrocketed. Children have lost their parents. Parents have lost their children. And only a small percentage of those suffering ever receive the treatment they need.
It’s a crisis. A daily emergency — with severe consequences for communities of color, made worse by the already-wide racial gaps in who gets decent health care and who doesn’t.
In 2017, the number of opioid-related deaths in Baltimore was almost as high as West Virginia, the state with the highest death rate in the country — with most death occurring in the black community.
This isn’t the first time we’ve faced a huge public health crisis — and when we look at our history, we see a path to end the opioid epidemic.
Today, in partnership with Representative Elijah Cummings, I’m rolling out the CARE Act — a comprehensive plan to end the opioid crisis by providing the resources needed to begin treating this epidemic like the public health emergency that it is.
It’s modeled after the Ryan White CARE Act, which finally provided significant new, guaranteed funding to help state and local governments combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic and established a safety net for those living with the disease.
The CARE Act provides resources directly to first responders, public health departments, and communities on the front lines of this crisis for prevention, treatment, and recovery services.
It’s $100 billion in federal funding over the next 10 years — because that’s what’s needed to make sure every single person gets the treatment they need. And don’t worry, we already know how to pay for it.
Please add your name to join the fight against the opioid epidemic and become a citizen co-sponsor of the CARE Act today.
This week, I’ll visit Kermit, West Virginia, a small town located along the Kentucky-West Virginia border. Kermit has been hard-hit by the opioid epidemic — and not by accident.
In just a few years, this town of only 400 people was inundated with 13 million prescription opioid pills, all delivered to a single local pharmacy — that’s more than 30,000 pills per resident. The companies shipping these pills repeatedly disregarded requirements to report suspicious patterns of behavior, and the state Board of Pharmacy failed to enforce its own rules.
Now, Kermit is fighting back with a lawsuit against the pharmacy and five wholesale drug distributors that exacerbated the crisis. It’s just one of many similar lawsuits lodged by towns, counties, and states across the country — and I hope they win. But the fact that any of this happened in the first place speaks to something rotten in our system.
Here’s the truth: big business is fueling addiction. The five companies that Kermit is suing earned $17 billion shipping prescription opioids to West Virginia during the period in question, and their CEOs took home millions in bonuses and pay.
This crisis has been driven by greed, pure and simple. Just look at the Sackler family. They own a pharmaceutical empire. They’re billionaires. They own mansions around the world. Entire wings of museums in New York and London have been stamped with the family name.
But here’s the thing: the Sacklers made their money pushing OxyContin. Pushing it even as study after study demonstrated its addictive potential. Even as hundreds of thousands of Americans died. And how did the Sackler family react? They tried to increase their profits by opening a network of for-profit recovery centers to treat the very same health crisis they were fueling.
The opioid epidemic teaches us that too often in America today, if you have money and power, you can take advantage of everyone else without consequence. I think it’s time to change that.
Under my opioid plan, billionaires like the Sacklers wouldn’t get to live the high life while only 1 out of 5 folks who need opioid treatment get the help they need. Instead, they would pay up to help make sure every person gets the care they need. And under my Corporate Executive Accountability Act, executives of major companies that deliberately hurt people through criminal negligence — for example, by dumping mountains of highly addictive pills into towns like Kermit to make a quick buck — don’t just pay a fine, they face real criminal penalties.
Real, structural change to address this crisis is going to take new leadership in Washington. Leadership that will hold business executives that cheat and defraud and addict people responsible for their criminal acts. Leadership that requires folks like the Sacklers and their heirs to pay a bit more to clean up the mess they caused.
That’s the America we deserve. An America where we take care of each other, where health care for every person who needs it matters more than rich families shielding their wealth. An America where when people like the Sacklers destroy millions of lives to make money, they don’t get museum wings named after them, they go to jail.
If you’re with me in this fight to end the opioid epidemic and make sure a crisis like this never happens again, add your name here:
Thanks for being a part of this,