Government

Amy Klobuchar in Iowa City touts mental health plan to make lives 'a lot better'

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar participates in a roundtable with local elected officials to discuss substance abuse and mental health at the Iowa City Public Library in Iowa City on Saturday, May 4, 2019. KC McGinnis for The Gazette
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar participates in a roundtable with local elected officials to discuss substance abuse and mental health at the Iowa City Public Library in Iowa City on Saturday, May 4, 2019. KC McGinnis for The Gazette
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IOWA CITY — If you’re running for president, Amy Klobuchar says, it’s not enough to merely have a plan.

“Why not, when you’re running for president and you want to have the highest office in the land, why not be the person who talks about things that matter to people and comes up with solutions, shows how you’re going to pay for them and actually gets them done?” the Minnesota senator said Saturday in Iowa City.

Klobuchar discussed her plan to address mental health and substance abuse with about 50 people at the Iowa City Public Library. She later met with supporters at The Mill.

Klobuchar has rolled out a $100 billion plan that focuses on prevention, early intervention and expanding access to treatment. She would pay for it with a 2-cent fee on each milligram of active opioid ingredient in a prescription pain pill. That would raise $40 billion, she said. Klobuchar also envisions a settlement with opioid makers, similar to the master settlement with tobacco companies that would yield another $40 billion. The remainder of her program would be funded by taxes on hedge-fund investment earnings by allowing generic competitors to enter the market sooner.

Klobuchar, who is polling at 2 percent, well behind the leaders in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said she’s convinced voters will be attracted to her plan for the same reason addressing mental health and substance abuse are important to her.

“It’s very personal,” she told those who attended her panel discussion with people who work with addiction and mental health issues in the Iowa City area. She talked about her father, Jim Klobuchar, an author and longtime sports writer with the Minneapolis Star and Star Tribune. He has struggled with alcoholism his entire adult life.

The issues need attention, Klobuchar said, because half of American adults have an addiction problem, or someone in their family or circle of friends is affected by addiction. About 20 percent have a mental illness issue.

“I’ve led my campaign with the issues that I think aren’t being discussed enough, and where we need to pay attention to them and where I think we can get things done,” she said.

Klobuchar noted that infrastructure also is a focus of her campaign.

“Both of them are doable,” she said. “Both of them are things where people on both sides of the aisle who want to do something about it.”

Judging by the number of questions she asked about those issues, voters want a president with a plan to help them with those topics,

“I can’t tell you how many people bring up addiction,” she said, but it’s more than the number of people who ask about Russia and the Mueller report.

Her focus is “those issues that have come up at nearly every forum,” Klobuchar said. “Are they as divisive as some other things? No. But are they crying out for help? Yes. So it’s my job to explain how we’re going to solve it.

“We’re not going to get rid of every mental illness in America, but we can save people’s live and we can make people’s lives a lot better,” she said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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