Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin delivered the keynote address Tuesday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.
Durbin said Simon had plenty of offers to teach when he retired from the Senate. So, he decided to follow his heart.
"He decided to come to SIU in Carbondale to bring the issues of the day to students and inspire them to consider public service in their own lives. For exercise, he got to swim in a pond next to his home in Makanda. He mentored and inspired scores of candidates."
Durbin said Simon's final political act, just two days before his death in December 2003, was to endorse Barack Obama for U.S. Senate.
Simon's long career as a public servant included being Lt. Governor, a U.S. representative and a U.S. senator.
Durbin also answered questions ab0ut some of the hot topics of the day.
He said America's opioid crisis started with the pharmaceutical industry.
Durbin said the Drug Enforcement Administration approves the production of 14 billion opioid pills each year, enough for a one-month prescription for every adult in the nation.
He said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out guidelines to doctors about the epidemic.
"If you take opioid pills for seven days, the studies show eight percent of those people will be taking them a year later. That's the nature of this addiction. And when the addiction for opioid pills gets beyond a person, they go to the cheap alternative, heroin."
Durbin said some good news to come out of this tragic situation is that addiction is now seen as a treatable disease instead of a moral failure. But, he said more sources for substance abuse treatment are needed.
Durbin believes there can be a bi-partisan solution to America's health care dilemma.
He said it's time for health care policies to deal with the cost of prescription drug prices.
Durbin said pharmaceutical companies are running up the demand for expensive, big name drugs.
"Blue Cross Blue Shield in Illinois now pays more each year for pharmaceuticals than they do for in-patient hospital care. We're reaching a point, my friends, where this has to come to some reasonable conclusion."
Durbin said pharmaceutical companies should be able to make a profit and have money for research, but he questions why they spend billions of dollars on advertising and persuading doctors to push their products.