Congressional candidate talks opioids, other big issues - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Congressional candidate talks opioids, other big issues

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WSIL -- 12th district Congressional Candidate made a swing through our region Wednesday.

After enjoying some Quatro's Pizza with SIU students Brendan Kelly stopped by News 3.

Kelly has spent the last 8 years as the St. Clair County State's Attorney. 

In that time he's had to deal with the growing opioid crisis.

"It is not a simple problem, but we have to be honest about where we are in this fight. We are not winning this crisis. We are not ahead of it as a country. We are not ahead of it as a region," Kelly said. 

Kelly says it is a two front battle and he called for attacking the supply and demand.

He says breaking the cycle of addiction, improving access to treatment, and taking on big pharma are all necessary components.

"While we are having good discussions about getting additional medication and availability of treatment for addiction, we still have not confronted the dangers that big pharmaceutical companies have added to this equation and that's where we have to have a tremendous change in policy in Congress."

Kelly also cited the need for more border security to stop the flow of opioids coming in from Mexico and China.

When it comes to the recent changes to the nation's tax code Kelly says companies are benefiting but the average person is not.  

"They seem to be investing most of it right back in their own stocks and right back in their own CEOS and it is not trickling down to employees in the way it has gone to people at the top," Kelly said.

While some folks are seeing bigger paychecks, Kelly says most people see that extra money dry up after dealing with the rising costs of education, health care,and other expenses. 

Kelly is calling for an increased effort to help Southern Illinois University.

He says it starts with ensuring federal dollars from multiple agencies keep coming in, but he says SIU can attract more students after the country makes a big change to education as a whole.

"We also have to change the fact that the federal government still makes a profit off of student loans. Higher education is supposed to make your life easier, it's not supposed to make your life harder," Kelly said.

Improving infrastructure could improve SIU as well.

Kelly supports a proposed four lane highway between Jackson and Monroe Counties. He says that would make it easier for students and others to travel to St. Louis and beyond.
    
But, Kelly says the current proposals in Washington don't give the region the real dollars needed for improvements.

"A lot of it is a bunch of gimmicks. There are tax breaks for contractors, they are talking about toll roads, privatization. That is not what will put Southern Illinois on a path to growth."  

Kelly says concerns over a trade war are valid. 

He says problems developed over the past 20 years due to bad decisions from both parties.

Kelly says trade reform is the way to go with an approach that has more brains and less "shooting from the hip."

And with all the political unrest in Washington Kelly says the unique make-up of the 12th district is the perfect place to start bringing people together.

He says you can't put southern Illinoisans into a box.   

"I think that's a good thing. It makes us all have to talk to each other and listen to each other and not get trapped in the same old fights and same old paradigm that they have in D.C. right now which frankly is not helping southern Illinois, it is hurting southern Illinois," Kelly said,

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