Senator To Kellyanne Conway: Apologize For Your Disrespectful Remarks About Addiction

By Kelly Burch 06/28/17

Conway recently suggested in a televised appearance that people with addiction need more "will." 

Kellyanne Conway
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Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey has demanded that White House advisor Kellyanne Conway apologize for saying that people battling addiction need “will” to get healthy. The senator said that Conway’s comments were “a death sentence” for people with opioid addiction.

“Ms. Conway owes an apology to the entire addiction and treatment community for her outrageous and disrespectful remarks,” Markey said in a statement. “She should also urge President Trump to honor his pledge during his address to Congress earlier this year to ‘expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted’.”

Markey said that Conway’s statement undercuts the scientific approach to the disease of addiction, turning the country back to a time when addiction was viewed as a moral failing. 

“Kellyanne Conway should be ashamed of herself for suggesting that those suffering from substance use disorders should simply have more ‘will.’ Ms. Conway’s statement betrays a fundamental lack of understanding about the nation’s largest public health crisis,” he said. 

The idea that addiction can be treated through willpower alone is a stigmatizing concept. 

“Addiction is a disease, and we would no sooner ask an Alzheimer’s patient, or a cancer patient or a diabetes sufferer to use ‘will’ as a treatment for those conditions,” Markey said. “Nearly 21 million people in our country suffer from a substance use disorder, but only 10% receive treatment for their disease. And for every dollar that we invest in treatment options for substance use disorders, we save $4 in health care costs and $7 in criminal justice costs. Funding treatment and recovery is both the right health policy to combat this epidemic and the right economic policy for our country.”

Conway’s comments came during an appearance on ABC’s This Week where she was discussing the Senate healthcare bill. During an exchange with George Stephanopolis, Conway said that money alone is not the only way to fight the opioid epidemic. 

“It takes money and it also takes a four letter word called will,” she said. “It takes the focus that it includes money, but it also includes understanding the difference between just interdiction and prevention, but, also recovery and treatment.”

The healthcare bill currently being debated in the Senate could cut coverage for 22 million Americans who currently have access to healthcare under expanded Medicaid coverage brought about by the Affordable Care Act. Many of those people use Medicaid to cover drug treatment services. In Markey’s home state of Massachusetts, for example, Medicaid covers nearly half of all medication-assisted treatment. 

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