Sen. Amy Klobuchar breaks down her $100 billion mental health services plan and the ‘Iowa caucus way’ of winning elections

Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks during a campaign event at The Mill. Saturday, May 4, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Near the beginning of her speech to a packed house at The Mill on Saturday evening, Sen. Amy Klobuchar called herself “an underdog” in the 2020 race for the Democratic nomination for president.

“But just so you know, every race I’ve run, I start out as the underdog,” Klobuchar said. “When I ran to be the first woman county attorney in Minnesota’s biggest county, I was running against someone who had much, much more money than me — double, triple the money than I had.”

“But guess what? I won. And you know how I won? I won the Iowa caucus way. I won by putting up 3,000 lawn signs, and by doing 20 parades, and by doing 85 pancake breakfasts.”

Klobuchar said she took the same approach when she ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006, and became the first woman elected to the Senate from Minnesota.

Klobuchar has long had a reputation as an extremely effective campaigner, able to connect with voters on a personal level. Her ability to make a connection was on display at The Mill, where she quickly developed a rapport with the audience, who laughed at her jokes and nodded along with the personal stories the senator shared.

The Minnesota Democrat told the audience about her grandfather, an iron ore miner, who saved money in a coffee can so Klobuchar’s father could become the first person in his family to attend college. She also talked about her mother, who was born and raised in Wisconsin, became a teacher and moved to Minnesota, because that state’s teachers unions had secured better working conditions for their members.

“She taught second grade until she was 70 years old,” Klobuchar said. “And I still meet people that say my mom was their favorite teacher.”

But it was while talking about her father, Jim Klobuchar, who was a well-known newspaper columnist in Minnesota and had a very public battle with alcoholism, that Klobuchar connected to one of the biggest issues of her campaign.

On Friday, Klobuchar announced a $100 billion policy proposal dealing with addiction and mental health issues. The senator held panel discussions on her plan and the problems it aims to address at Drake University and the Iowa City Public Library on Saturday, before her event at The Mill.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks during a mental health roundtable discussion at the Iowa City Public library. Saturday, May 4, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

“I’ve been asked more about addiction and mental health at meetings, like the meet-and-greet we’re going to do next and town halls, than I have been asked Russia and the Mueller report,” Klobuchar said during the hour-long discussion at ICPL.

“What I’ve come up with is a paid-for plan, and it starts, first of all, with prevention,” Klobuchar explained. The prevention component of the plan consists of educational efforts and counseling, including making sure suicide prevention counseling services are available.

Klobuchar’s plan also calls for increasing the number of beds available in treatment facilities. Iowa is currently last in the nation when it comes to the number of beds available statewide, with only 64. The plan also calls for increasing the number of healthcare workers providing services for those struggling with addiction and mental illness, including the use of telemedicine in rural areas. There would also be an emphasis on developing best practices that could be implemented nationwide.


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The final part of the plan calls for helping people returning to work after treatment.

Klobuchar set a budget of $100 billion for her plan. According to the senator, $40 billion of that amount would come from a two-cents-per-milligram tax on prescription opioids, a further $40 billion potentially coming from legal settlements of lawsuits brought against opioid manufacturers by states, with “some other pay-fors” making up the final $20 billion.

“I truly believe that if you are going to run for president, you should have some ideas,” Klobuchar told the 30 people gathered at the ICPL on Saturday afternoon. “And you should have a way to pay for them, and a way to get them done.”

Since declaring her candidacy in February, Klobuchar has attempted to draw a distinction between herself and other candidates whose proposals she has labelled “aspirational,” as opposed to practical.

For example, while other candidates have plans calling for free tuition at public universities and large-scale cancellation of outstanding student loan debt, Klobuchar doesn’t endorse either.

“I wish I could staple a free college diploma under every one of your chairs — I do,” Klobuchar told St. Anselm College students at an April CNN town hall meeting in New Hampshire. “Don’t look. It’s not there. I wish I could do that but I have to be straight with you and tell you the truth.”

Klobuchar has come out in favor of free two-year programs at community colleges and expanding Pell Grants. Instead of canceling student debt, she favors creating a program to allow borrowers to refinance at lower rates.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar speaks during a campaign event at The Mill. Saturday, May 4, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Most of the other 2020 candidate have come out in favor of the Green New Deal that has been proposed in the House of Representatives, but Klobuchar has also described it as aspirational. That does not mean, however, that she isn’t willing to take action to address climate change.

When Klobuchar outlined her priorities for the audience at The Mill, combating climate change was at the top of the list.

She said being from the Midwest would be important in helping her deal with the problem, “Because having a voice from the heartland is going to be meaningful here. Not just meaningful, it’s going to be able to get things done.”

Klobuchar explained that “on day one,” she would recommit the United State to the Paris Climate Accord.

“On day two, I will bring back those clean power rules that would have made such a difference in this country,” Klobuchar continued. “And then I will bring back the gas mileage standard rules.”

The second priority Klobuchar listed was health care. She pointed out that the Trump administration’s efforts to try to eliminate the Affordable Care Act haven’t been getting much attention compared to other administration actions.

“We are going to fight for America, and we’re going to beat these guys, because they are not going to take the Affordable Care Act away from us,” Klobuchar said, before elaborating on her approach to health care. “That means, by the way, bringing down premiums with a public option, with Medicare or Medicaid. That’s what we wanted to do in the first place. And it means taking on the pharmaceutical companies [over the cost of prescription drugs]. This means negotiations for Medicare, this means bringing in less expensive drugs from other countries, like Canada.”

Klobuchar also mentioned — albeit more briefly — the need for comprehensive immigration reform, improved workforce training and raising the minimum wage as priorities.

The senator said that, although there “a lot of great candidates in this race,” she has “the track record” of getting things and winning elections, “and not everyone has it.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar arrives at a campaign event at The Mill. Saturday, May 4, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Klobuchar pointed out that she won every congressional district in Minnesota when she ran for reelection in 2018. But as she finished her half-hour-long remarks at The Mill, Klobuchar seemed to pivot back to her status as an underdog. But this time, she appealed to Iowa pride, suggesting that the state’s voters are smart enough to realize the best choice isn’t always the most popular one.

“You are Iowans, right? You are the state that’s the first state,” Klobuchar said. “You are the state that understands how important real politics is, that you just don’t go with the easy choice. You look for someone that is actually going to get things done, and you have done it time and time again.”

“So, Iowans, it is time to beat Donald Trump, it is time to take back the White House, it is time — in a few years — to take back your governor’s office, to take back the legislature, and I want to lead that ticket.”

The event at The Mill didn’t include a question-and-answer section, but in keeping with her style of campaigning at a personal level, Klobuchar talked with everyone in the long procession of people who lined up to get a photo with her at the end of her remarks.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar at The Mill

On Saturday, 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar talked about her plans—including her new $100 billion proposal for addressing issues of addiction and mental health—and what it will take to defeat Donald Trump in next year’s election. The Minnesota Democrat spoke to a packed house at The Mill.Full story:

Posted by Little Village Mag on Tuesday, May 7, 2019

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