Diehl touts plan for opioids, borrowing bits from Baker

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BOSTON — State Rep. Geoff Diehl, one of three Republicans running for the U.S. Senate, went to Lawrence on Tuesday to detail his approach to combat opioid addiction, releasing a plan that blends treatment for addicts with tough sentencing for drug traffickers.

Diehl, who won his party's endorsement for Senate in April, blamed incumbent U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren for doing too little to lead on the issue of opioid addiction. Instead, he pitched a plan of his own that borrows from some of the policies already put in place by Gov. Charlie Baker here in Massachusetts.

Diehl's plan calls for increased federal funding to support in-state treatment and detox facilities, walk-in consultations for addicts and research into Food and Drug Administration-approved pain management alternatives.

He also said he supports a national seven-day limit on initial opioid prescriptions and would work to integrate more state-based prescription monitoring programs.

"I am here, where the epidemic has robbed so many people of their lives, to tell them that there is hope. We can fight this epidemic and win," Diehl said, according to a statement released by his campaign.

Diehl also said he would fight to stop the illegal opioid trade by securing the border and imposing federal mandatory life sentences for traffickers caught with more than 30 kilograms of opioids.

Warren, who is seeking a second term, partnered with Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings early this year to offer a 10-year, $100 billion plan to invest in opioid abuse treatment, including $100 million a year for Massachusetts. Warren said it was modeled off the 1990 law passed by Congress that proved effective in curbing the AIDS epidemic, but Diehl called it an "election year ploy."

Diehl criticized Warren for being the only member of the delegation to vote against the 21st Century Cures Act, which included money for Massachusetts to fight opioid abuse, but also contained what Warren consider to be unacceptable giveaways to pharmaceutical companies.

A spokeswoman for Diehl's campaign said the Whitman Republican will be releasing additional plans soon to control federal spending in order to pay for his opioid abuse prevention proposal.

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