Markey calls Senate GOP health care proposal a death sentence for those suffering from opioid addiction


Washington (June 26, 2017) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today demanded a public apology from Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to President Donald Trump, after she remarked yesterday on ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that funding hasn’t solved the problem of the opioid crisis, and that, “It takes money and it also takes a four letter word called will.” The exchange came when Conway was questioned about drastic cuts to the Medicaid program in the Senate health care proposal and the inevitable impact on treatment for those suffering from opioid addiction. Medicaid covers approximately one-third of Americans with an opioid use disorder and pays for nearly half of the medication-assisted treatment in Massachusetts. 


Communities across the country have only recently received the initial $500 million of the $1 billion that was appropriated through the 21st Century Cures Act, legislation that was passed by Congress and became law last December. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services has referred to addiction as a “disease.”


“Kellyanne Conway should be ashamed of herself for suggesting that those suffering from substance use disorders should simply have more ‘will’. Ms. Conway’s statement betrays a fundamental lack of understanding about the nation’s largest public health crisis.


“Addiction is a disease, and we would no sooner ask an Alzheimer’s patient, or a cancer patient or a diabetes sufferer to use ‘will’ as a treatment for those conditions. Nearly 21 million people in our country suffer from a substance use disorder, but only ten percent receive treatment for their disease. And for every dollar that we invest in treatment options for substance use disorders, we save $4 in health care costs and $7 in criminal justice costs.  Funding treatment and recovery is both the right health policy to combat this epidemic and the right economic policy for our country.


“Ms. Conway owes an apology to the entire addiction and treatment community for her outrageous and disrespectful remarks. She should also urge President Trump to honor his pledge during his address to Congress earlier this year to ‘expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted’.”