The Veterans Administration is investigating ongoing concerns about painkillers given patients at the VA Medical Center in Tomah. The California-based Center for Investigative Reporting said numbers of opiate prescriptions at Tomah grew by over 500 percent from 2004-to-2012, while nationally, the numbers of veterans on VA prescribed opiates dropped by 6 percent over the past year, as the VA moved to reduce pill usage and seek alternative treatments.
The CIR report said opiates were “handed out like candy” to patients at the Tomah center who were reportedly “doped up,” that workers who raised questions were punished, and that a Marine died from an overdose last August. The center quotes former Tomah mental health secretary Ryan Honl as saying the system has “gone completely haywire.” Honl filed a federal whistle-blower complaint just before leaving last October.
CIR reported that opiate prescriptions have skyrocketed under Tomah VA Center Chief of Staff David Houlihan. Houlihan is quoted saying there’s nothing unusual about what he’s done, and that he’s has been attempting to reduce opiate usage for veterans who got were given large doses from other doctors, or during their military service. He also said Tomah doctors are making increased use of Suboxone, a drug which can help patients fight addictions to other narcotics.