Government

Klobuchar unveils substance abuse, mental health plan ahead of Iowa visit

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., talks with Clay Pasqual, a Democratic intern, during a 2017 visit to the Iowa Statehouse, while state Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, looks on. Klobuchar, one of 22 Democrats seeking the presidential nomination, has unveiled a plan to address opioid addiction and mental health care. She will discuss the plan during a roundtable Saturday afternoon in Iowa City. (Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., talks with Clay Pasqual, a Democratic intern, during a 2017 visit to the Iowa Statehouse, while state Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, looks on. Klobuchar, one of 22 Democrats seeking the presidential nomination, has unveiled a plan to address opioid addiction and mental health care. She will discuss the plan during a roundtable Saturday afternoon in Iowa City. (Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

DES MOINES — U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has shared on the campaign trail the story of her father’s struggles with alcohol addiction.

That struggle helped inform the Minnesota senator’s plan to address opioid addiction and mental health care, her campaign said.

Klobuchar, 58, one of 22 Democratic candidates for president, unveils the plan as she returns this weekend to Iowa, where she will participate in roundtable discussions on the topic, including one at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St.

Klobuchar’s $100 billion plan focuses on prevention, early intervention and expanding access to treatment, her campaign said.

“My own story is like a lot of families’ stories,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “My dad struggled with alcoholism when I was growing up. I love my dad. I saw him climb the highest mountains but also sink to the lowest valleys because of his battle.”

Highlights from Klobuchar’s plan include:

• Expand funding to state and local programs that detect and respond to mental health care issues, including in schools.

• Create new initiatives focused on the alcohol addiction, especially in high-need areas.

• Incentivize states that mandate devices that require a sobriety test before a vehicle will start.

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• Require doctors to use prescription drug monitoring programs, similar to a step Iowa took at the state level in 2018.

• Fund research and development of alternatives to opioid pain medicines.

• Launch a national program to collect unused opioid prescription medications.

• Increase investments in state and local suicide prevention programs, including a focus on farmers, veterans, LGBTQ and tribal communities.

• Boost the number of beds in mental health and substance abuse treatment centers.

• Increase federal funding for drug and mental health courts as an alternative to incarceration for non-violent offenders.

Klobuchar’s campaign said the plan would be funded by placing a 2-cent fee on each milligram of active opioid ingredient in a prescription pain pill, both paid by the manufacturer or importer; and by requiring hedge fund managers to pay taxes on investment earnings by allowing generic competitors to enter the market sooner.

Klobuchar has shared on the campaign trail the story of her father, whose struggles with alcoholism included three drunken driving convictions.

“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. I believe everyone should have the same opportunity my dad had to be pursued by grace and get the treatment and help they need.”

l Comments: (563) 383-2492; erin.murphy@lee.net

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