U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, said she plans to stay out of weighing in on the March 2018 Democratic primaries, including the 12th congressional district race.
Last year, ahead of the primaries in March, St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly spoke on behalf of Duckworth when she was running for the Senate. Her campaign was already attacking the now former GOP Sen. Mark Kirk.
But Duckworth, who was in Granite City on Monday discussing the need for opioid treatment funding, would not say if she would return the favor for Kelly.
“This is something I would like the process to move forward,” Duckworth said. “I certainly regard Brendan Kelly very highly. In fact we talked about some of the work he did here.”
Kelly is one of several candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the 12th district. Announced candidates also include Dean Pruitt, of Millstadt; David Bequette, of Columbia; Pat McMahan, a city council member in Mascoutah; and Adam King, of Alton. Chris Miller, a Roxana native, is raising money to run in the 12th.
During her visit Monday to Chestnut Health Systems’ Granite City facility, Duckworth said there was discussion about Kelly’s work with the drug court and his help in the opioid fight.
“I can’t speak highly enough of him, but as far as the political process is concerned, I’m staying out of the primary for now,” Duckworth said. “I may change my mind later, but I don’t see that happening in the near future.”
While visiting Chestnut Health Systems, Duckworth spoke out against the proposed GOP health-care proposal and how it could hurt those dealing with opioid addiction.
“Not only does it cut funding and makes treatment harder to access, this Trumpcare bill gives billions of dollars in handouts to the very same pharmaceutical companies that have helped contribute to same opioid crisis today,” Duckworth said. “I think that is very shameful.”
Duckworth complimented the work being done at Chestnut, and like facilities, in treating people in the opioid epidemic.
“Work being done here in facilities like this certainly helps family all across the metro-east and all across Illinois,” Duckworth said. “The opioid epidemic has devastated men and women all across the country.”
Residents in Madison and St. Clair counties are buying opioid prescriptions at a rate much higher than the national average, Duckworth said.
Duckworth said she has co-sponsored legislation that would help reduce opioid addiction among veterans, legislation to expand community-based prevention efforts, as well efforts to make medication such as Naloxone, which helps treats narcotic overdoses in an emergency, more readily available.
“I’m really disappointed; instead of solving this epidemic, President Trump and Senate Republicans are taking strides to reduce resources and funding at the moment our families need these resources,” Duckworth said.
Duckworth expressed concern over how Medicaid would be cut by $800 billion over 10 years, under the GOP health-care proposal.
“That would devastate programs like this that help people I the community,” Duckworth said. “It also would devastate our rural hospitals, which many of them are the major health care provider in multicounty areas.”
Chestnut Health Systems is worried about how treatment could be affected for those they are helping, such as detox centers having to turn people away because of a lack of Medicaid coverage, and residential treatment facilities not being able to accept clients, said Brent Cummins, director of adult addiction treatment and recovery support.
“My concerns is the quality of treatment and continuum of care that needs to be provided to help treat someone with opioid abuse is going to be devastating or severely impacted,” Cummins said. “Medication assistance treatment that has been used now to save these individuals lives and get them going so they could look at some of the behaviors to make themselves better, that’s in jeopardy for those individuals being booted off those medications. We’re really concern how this is going to affect people with opioid abuse disorder.”
Jim Wallis, the corporate director of Business Development for Chestnut said the Granite City facility serves about 10,000 patients a year with difference services such as mental health or substance abuse cases.
He said 85 to 90 percent of the clients at Chestnut have managed have Medicare or managed Medicaid, and even though it would be speculative of how much would lose insurance, based on recent Congressional Budget Office estimates, “it’s going to significantly impact the people we serve and focus on serving.”
Duckworth reiterated there is a lot that can be done to repair the Affordable Care Act, such as allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices.
She also called for a public option on the health insurance exchange. She expressed hope moderate Republicans would be able to work with Democrats on Obamacare repairs.
“We can’t talk about the fixes that we want to work on and things we could do to fix and maintain the health care for those Americans because we’re stuck in this cycle of trying to repeal the ACA,” Duckworth said.
Duckworth on Russia
Amid reports of Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer in the summer of 2016, Duckworth also expressed her frustration with the Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and called it an ‘attack’ on the country.
“We came under attack by a foreign nation, a known adversary, who has been an adversary for over 50 years, and we’ve done nothing about it. and we’re all caught up with emoluments, with the president and his family, ‘Are they making money out of this? What do the Russians have on him?’” Duckworth said. “At the end of the day, they’re attacking us. We need to pursue that.”