Sen. Donnelly says more healthcare workers needed to fight opioid crisis

Sen. Joe Donnelly addresses opioid epidemic solutions

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WHAS11) -- More providers. More doctors. More health aides. More counselors. That's what U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, D.-Indiana, said are needed in the fight against opioid abuse and addiction Thursday morning at the LifeSpring community health center in Jeffersonville, Ind.

Donnelly and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R.-Alaska, introduced the Strengthening the Addiction Treatment Workforce Act, which is aimed at drawing more talent into the addiction treatment sector. The act would offer student loan forgiveness, through the National Health Service Corps student loan repayment and forgiveness program, to people working with those battling addiction, while also offering up to $50,000 in loan repayment to those who make a two-year commitment to working at a treatment center.

"We want to have more people come in to be able to provide that assistance and this would be a great incentive to be able to have them in our community," Donnelly said.

While Donnelly is working on this bill with a Republican colleague, the healthcare plan unveiled by the GOP Senate is not receiving as much bipartisan support, with several Republicans even criticizing the bill that would rewrite the Affordable Care Act. Donnelly called the bill a "wealth transfer bill" that he said would leave 300,000 Hoosiers without coverage and would hurt centers like LifeSpring, which depend on funding from federal programs like Medicaid.

"Those are dollars that are going out to pay doctors, to pay health centers. And it's pulling that money out to be given as a tax cut to the wealthiest families in the country," Donnelly said. "I had a bunch of Hoosiers come up and say, 'I'd rather have those funds for my friends and neighbors than simply come to me.'"

"It's cost effective but it isn't free," Dr. Mary Bouldin, the Director of Addiction Medicine at LifeSpring, said. "In order to continue to do what we do, we have to maintain our funding, and honestly we need a lot more services."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has told Senate Republicans that if they don't pass the Senate's healthcare bill, then they would have to sit down and work with the Democrats, something Donnelly said he would welcome.

"I'm more than willing to work with anybody at any time to try to make health care better in this country," Donnelly said.

The bill needs the support of 50 Republican Senators, which would then require Vice President Mike Pence to cast the deciding vote on its passage.

 

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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