Marco Rubio Confronted About CARA Funding During Roundtable

By Kelly Burch 10/27/16

Though Rubio co-sponsored the bill, he did wind up missing the Senate vote on CARA.

Marco Rubio Confronted About CARA Funding During Roundtable

Former Republican presidential candidate and Florida Senator Marco Rubio was the target of angry remarks about Florida’s response to the opiate epidemic on Monday during a roundtable discussion at Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton, Florida. 

“Can you bring me up to date on why we haven’t been able to fund those very essential things in CARA?” audience member Julia Negron said, referencing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, passed by the federal government earlier this year. 

According to the Herald Tribune, Negron is a former heroin user who now runs the nonprofit Suncoast Harm Reduction Project. Negron pointed to three priorities in the CARA law—law enforcement diversion, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and overdose prevention drugs—that have not received proper funding. “Not funding it is a little bit of an outrage,” she said. “Those three things would save lives. What’s going on here is crazy.”

During the gathering, Rubio said he has a “very close friend” from high school who has struggled with addiction. “I’ve long said people who are dependent on these substances should not be treated as criminals,” he said. “They have a disease; it needs to be treated as a disease.”

However, many recovery advocates like Negron are not happy with Rubio’s response to the opiate epidemic. Although he co-sponsored CARA, Rubio missed the Senate vote on the bill. However, he says he is in favor of fully funding the law. “I’m a supporter of the CARA bill. We got it passed,” he said. “It got done and hopefully we can get it funded now.”

Rubio dropped out of the presidential race in March, after losing his home state of Florida to Donald Trump in the Republican primary. He is now locked in a tight re-election bid for his Senate seat, running against Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Murphy has talked about how addiction has touched his own life. When he was a toddler, Murphy was raised by a single mother who was addicted to drugs, according to the Miami Herald. Murphy was raised by his father, and his biological mother ultimately gave up her parental rights.

It was “so admirable for Kathy, my birth mom, to have given up her rights to me,” Murphy told the Miami Herald in June. “I think that’s rare for anybody to do, but she was always such a great person and knew that she was in no position to raise me.”

Murphy’s mother was “in rehab on and off for the greater part of my life and childhood,” he said. She got clean for good when Murphy was in college and the two are in close contact now.

“It’s one of those things you don’t think about,” said Murphy, who is only 33. “But I look back at my high school years and college years and 20s and all that growing up—I’ve never tried a drug in my life; I’ve never even smoked weed. No one believes me when I say it, but if they know my story and they know about my mom, it’s obviously more believable because of what I saw growing up.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.