Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin has introduced a bill to help prevent abuse of pain medication by veterans. It’s a response to the problems uncovered at the Tomah Veterans Administration medical center, including the death of Marine veteran Jason Simcakoski last year.
“This legislation would provide the VA with the tools that it needs to prevent this type of tragedy from occurring to other veterans and their families,” Baldwin said.
According to a release from her office, Baldwin’s legislation was written in consultation with medical professionals, veterans service organizations, and the Simcakoski family.
It focuses on strengthening the VA’s opioid prescribing guidelines and improving pain management services by putting the following reforms in place:
· Requiring stronger opioid prescribing guidelines and education for VA providers including stricter standards against prescribing dangerous combinations of opioids with other drugs and for prescribing opioids to patients struggling with mental health issues;
· Increased coordination and communication throughout the VA with medical facilities, providers, patients and their families surrounding pain management, alternative treatments for chronic pain, and appropriate opioid therapy; and
· Holding the VA system accountable for appropriate care and quality standards through consistent internal audits as well as GAO reviews and reports to Congress.
In addition to improving opioid therapy and pain management, the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act helps strengthen patient advocacy, expand access to complementary and integrative health and wellness, and enhance VA hiring and internal audits.