Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Walt Maddox proposed a plan to combat the growing opioid crisis in Alabama on Monday that de-emphaizes prisons and takes away responsibilities from the Department of Mental Health.
In his plan, Maddox said that his first action to deal with the crisis would be to separate substance abuse from the Alabama Department of Mental Health and create a cabinet-level position specifically dealing with the crisis.
“We need a cabinet level officer who answers directly to the Governor in the battle to save our state from the ravages of illegal drug use while continuing to coordinate drug policy with mental health resources so that underlying causes of addiction are addressed,” Maddox said.
The candidate also stressed that prisons were not the answer to the opioid crisis.
“Our prisons are troubled on all fronts, but one of the clearest, most consistent mistakes of the past has been to warehouse non-violent prisoners with addiction problems without providing treatment or rehabilitation,” Maddox said.
Finally, he called on–as he has many times before–for an expansion of Medicaid, which was sharply rejected by Gov. Robert Bentley’s administration.
Maddox’s call for funding hits upon one of the most crucial problems with combating the opioid crisis: how does Alabama fund the solutions to the opioid crisis?
It is unclear if Alabama will have the funds to fight the crisis considering that the state is expected to face a budget shortfall that could extend into tens of millions of dollars. A light at the end of the tunnel is an earmark in a budget proposed by Trump’s White House that would allocate billions to fight the opioid crisis.
But even Trump’s funding may come with the recommendation for harsher punishments for trafficking the drug.
Trump suggested in March that drug dealers should face the death penalty for their role in the opioid crisis. White House Spokesperson Kellyanne Conway reiterated the point in an interview with CNN.
Even when it comes to treatment, the candidates fall on different lines.
Maddox suggested in his plan that medical marijuana could be a solution to the crisis and even suggested that the drug be recreational in Alabama, which is a plan that is greatly opposed by Republicans in the state who have only recently warmed up to the idea of medical marijuana.
The plan for medical marijuana could also be met with a more pugnacious Justice Department headed by Jeff Sessions. After he was seated in the position, Sessions said he would no longer allow states to violate the federal prohibition on Marijuana and even suggested going after states that only allowed medical marijuana.
Under Gov. Kay Ivey, the opioid crisis Alabama received its own Council commissioned by the governor and overseen by three co-chairs–Attorney General Steve Marshall, Acting State Health Officer Scott Harris, and Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear.
The council’s report recommended a slue of policies and legislation, but most failed to gain traction in the 2018 Legislative Session.