Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) revealed her plan to throw $100 billion at the opioid crisis but without putting any money toward stopping the drug flow into the United States.
Opioid deaths in the United States have skyrocketed over the past few years, with 47,600 opioid overdose deaths in 2017 alone, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The Trump administration declared the opioid crisis a national emergency last year, and President Donald Trump directed his administration to address the issue. Additionally, first lady Melania Trump made opioid addiction one of the key areas of her Be Best initiative.
Warren and the CARE Act
As part of her presidential bid, Warren announced her own initiative on ending the opioid crisis called the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act.
Real, structural change to address the opioid epidemic is going to take new leadership in Washington. If you’re with me in the fight to end this crisis, add your name and become a citizen co-sponsor of the #CAREact. https://t.co/5EiSUdbBSK
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) May 8, 2019
First introduced by Warren in the Senate in 2018, the CARE Act would invest $100 billion over 10 years to help Americans address addiction to opioids.
Warren’s plan would feature $4 billion per year distributed to states and tribal authorities to fund their local initiatives. This funding would be disbursed based on the number of overdoses in each region. Additionally, $2.7 billion would go to counties and cities that have been hit the hardest by the epidemic.
The remaining $3.3 billion per year would go toward addiction research, training for medical professionals, funding nonprofits that are working to address the crisis, and making naloxone more accessible to medical professionals. Naloxone is a nonaddictive drug that eases addiction by reversing the effects of opioids.
It’s clear that Warren wants to curb overdose deaths in the U.S. and is willing to put some money where her mouth is when it comes to combatting legal opioids, but her plan has one key flaw.
Warren’s plan does nothing to stop the flow of drugs into the country.
One of the president’s most common arguments for building a physical barrier along the southern border was to stop the flow of drugs into the United States — and for good reason. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), 86 percent of the heroin in the United States came from Mexico.
While all opioid addictions are dangerous, heroin is a front-runner. In 2017, 15,482 Americans died of a heroin overdose — more than six times as many that had died a decade earlier.
Because thousands of Americans are dying of heroin overdoses, Trump made the overdose crisis in the U.S. a key argument for building the wall since the early days of his campaign.
Heroin overdoses are taking over our children and others in the MIDWEST. Coming in from our southern border. We need strong border & WALL!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2016
Beyond heroin, Border Patrol agents have also seized meth and fentanyl — both of which can be lethal to Americans. Just this week, Border Patrol agents in California confiscated 95 pounds of meth, while agents in Arizona seized 63 pounds of fentanyl.
#BorderPatrol agents assigned to San Diego Sector seized over 95lbs of meth and heroin hidden inside the false floor of a truck bed. Agents discovered the drugs at a checkpoint following a K9 alert. Details: https://t.co/bmb44TpUkN pic.twitter.com/c5jiy5rWME
— CBP (@CBP) May 6, 2019
#CBP officers at the Port of San Luis in AZ seized almost 63lbs of fentanyl, meth and heroin in 2 smuggling attempts. Two U.S. citizens were arrested. Learn more: https://t.co/7ZjrzPeByP pic.twitter.com/CNRCfFVxcw
— CBP (@CBP) May 5, 2019
According to a report from the Associated Press, U.S. drug czar Jim Carroll recently confirmed that a border wall would reduce the flow of drugs into the U.S. by forcing the cartel to use points of entry where enforcement is more stringent.
“So that wall will undoubtedly stop the flow of drugs in those locations, force people to the ports of entry, where there’s more law enforcement located,” Carroll said.
While most drugs are stopped at points of entry, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick noted in an interview with Fox News that cartels are using the massive influx of migrants crossing the border to distract overwhelmed border agents while smuggling drugs.
Despite evidence that the border wall could reduce the flow of drugs into the U.S., Warren still strongly opposed Trump’s request for $5 billion to fund a physical barrier at the border.
In fact, she bragged about trying to stop the wall from being funded via Trump’s national emergency declaration.
Mexico wouldn't pay for @realDonaldTrump's wall. Congress wouldn't fully fund it. So now he's throwing a temper tantrum and declaring a "national emergency." My new bill would stop him from using disaster recovery funds for his pet project. https://t.co/zSPp4INty3
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) February 14, 2019
She even failed to connect the two problems in one tweet, showing that she doesn’t see the link between a porous border and the opioid crisis.
Donald Trump’s ridiculous wall isn’t a “national emergency.” But our country’s opioid crisis is. Rep. Elijah @ReElectCummings and I are proposing big, structural change to fix it. https://t.co/V9PZ6xgcbp
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 20, 2019
Warren claimed her opioid plan is a “real, structural change,” but she isn’t seeing the supply side of the opioid crisis. By failing to prevent the flow of heroin and other opioids into the U.S., Warren’s plan could leave medical professionals continuously plugging holes as Mexican drug cartels drill new ones.
A wall wouldn’t stop all drugs from flowing into the U.S., but as Warren noted, the opioid crisis is a structural one, and addressing the immigration crisis may need to be part of that solution.
Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.