U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced Shelly Elkington from Montevideo, whose daughter died after battling an opioid addiction, will attend this year's State of the Union Address as her guest.
Elkington's daughter, Casey Jo Schulte, was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 2008 and subsequently was over prescribed pain medication. Following Schulte's 2015 death in Moorhead, Elkington became an advocate for victims of overprescribing and drug abuse.
Klobuchar has led efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, which now claims 91 deaths per day according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Minnesota, drug overdose deaths continued a decade-long trend of growth in 2016, climbing to 637 deaths in 2016.
"Casey Jo had a bright future. She was a champion swimmer and hoped to study nursing like her mother when opioids sent her on a tragic path," Klobuchar said in a news release. "I wish I could say she's the only one, but we all know she's not. The opioid epidemic is taking lives like hers in Minnesota and across the country at an alarming rate. That's why the work Shelly is doing sharing her daughter's story is so important in drawing much-needed attention to the opioid epidemic and putting a human face on the toll it's taking on communities across the country. I'm honored to have her as my guest and hope her attendance highlights the need for additional resources to combat this crisis."
"I want to thank Sen. Klobuchar for inviting me to the State of the Union and for working to stop the opioid crisis facing Minnesota and the nation. We are extremely honored that she is able to use Casey Jo's story to shed light on this urgent and important issue. We are losing a generation to this epidemic, we are losing our future nurses, doctors, teachers, artists, leaders, mom's and dad's. I'm so thankful that Senator Klobuchar is willing to fight with us to save lives, from addressing over prescribing to helping provide much needed resources to help our children and our communities," Elkington stated.
The president will deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at 8 p.m. Jan. 30.
As a former Hennepin County Attorney, Klobuchar has long led local and national efforts to curb drug abuse and help people overcome addiction. Recently, Klobuchar spoke in the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing in which a report detailing a year-long investigation into how drug traffickers exploit vulnerabilities in the international mail system to easily ship synthetic drugs like fentanyl from China into the United States was released. Klobuchar detailed her bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which would close an exploited loophole and help stop dangerous synthetic drugs from being shipped across our borders.
Klobuchar was one of four senators, along with Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Rob Portman, R-Ohio,, and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., to lead the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act or CARA. This bipartisan bill, which was signed into law in July 2016, encourages states and local communities to pursue a full array of proven strategies in the fight against opioid addiction. At the end of 2016, $1 billion was made available by Congress to fund the national effort. To build on the monumental first step of CARA, Klobuchar introduced the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act, which would require the use of strong prescription drug monitoring programs in all states that receive certain federal funding to combat opioid abuse and also requires states to make their drug monitoring program data available to other states.
In 2016, she and 10 other senators introduced the Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment (LifeBOAT) Act, which would establish a reliable funding stream to provide and expand access to substance abuse treatment. She and a bipartisan group of senators also introduced the Synthetic Abuse and Labeling of Toxic Substances Act. The SALTS Act would make it easier to prosecute the sale of "analogue" drugs, which are synthetic substances that are substantially similar to illegal drugs.
In September 2014, the DEA implemented Klobuchar's bipartisan Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act. Under the legislation, consumers are provided with more safe and responsible ways to dispose of unused prescription medications and controlled substances.