Sen. Elizabeth Warren is calling on Congress to look to past initiatives for the HIV/AIDs epidemic as a model for dealing with the present-day opioid crisis.
In a Thursday op-ed authored with Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland in USA Today, the Massachusetts Democrat wrote that “America has addressed this kind of public health emergency before.”
“Three decades ago, another epidemic that was highly stigmatized, greatly misunderstood and severely underestimated was spreading through our country and killing tens of thousands of otherwise healthy people each year,” Warren and Cummings wrote. “That epidemic was HIV/AIDS.”
The Centers for Disease Control said in December that life expectancy in the U.S. dropped for the second year in a row due to the skyrocketing number of drug overdose deaths.
The Democrats say they intend to introduce legislation “to establish a comprehensive system for funding and local decision-making to address opioid addiction and substance use.”
They said their proposal will be modeled on the Ryan White CARE Act, which was passed by Congress in 1990 by a wide bipartisan margin and named for an Indiana teen who died after contracting AIDS through a blood transfusion.
“Our legislation will acknowledge that the epidemic we are confronting is a disease, which must be addressed by providing treatment to those who need it and investing in the science that will help us make progress in fighting back,” Warren and Cummings wrote.
It will also, they said, make it easier to hold executives at companies “that fuel the epidemic” accountable.
“It is time for Congress to show the same political courage that our colleagues showed nearly 30 years ago,” the lawmakers said.
Read the full op-ed at USA Today.