WILKES-BARRE -- Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Casey believes that the health care bill proposed by Republicans could make the opioid crisis even worse.
He came to the Luzerne County Courthouse Monday with one question on his mind.
"In the midst of trying to solve this problem, why would we ever cut the program that has the greatest impact on it over time? Medicaid and in particular, Medicaid expansion," Casey said.
He told a crowd at the courthouse that the new health care bill has devastating cuts to Medicaid that would affect people seeking help for addiction.
"None of us believe that the opioid problem is going to be eliminated in the next couple of years, so just when we're going to need it the most, that's when a lot of the cuts hit," Casey said.
Steve Ross is the director for a drug and alcohol program in Luzerne County that helps addicts. He said that last year, someone in Luzerne County died from an overdose every two and a half days. This year, he said that rate could go even higher.
"Any future cuts to drug and alcohol treatment, whether it be on a local, state, or federal level, will be crippling to our program," Ross said,
For Lisa Napersky, opioid addiction hits close to home. She lost her brother in 2001.
"I was there with him multiple times at three o'clock in the morning on the phone trying to find a bed for him, but when you don't have insurance and also back then addiction was really treated like a criminal issue," Napersky said.
She said people of all walks of life are living with addiction. She hopes they can get the help they need.
"I don't know if my brother would be alive today if there was the ACA [Affordable Care Act], but at least he would have had a fighting chance," Napersky said.
The health care bill proposed by the Senate has not yet come up for a vote.