An investigation by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general has found that psychiatrists at the Tomah VA Medical Center did not discuss the hazards of a synthetic opiate prescribed to a 35-year-old Marine Corps vet, who later died from a drug overdose while at the hospital last year. Investigators also found the hospital also did not have anti-overdose medicine on hand.
Jason Simcakoski died in August 2014 from a fatal mix of opiates and diazepam, an anti-anxiety medication also known as Valium, prescribed to him by VA physicians. His death was one of several linked to the misuse of prescription opiods at the hospital. The report did not rule out the possibility that Simcakoski may have taken extra doses of the drugs.
Members of Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation promised action, following the latest revelations.
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) called it a “tragedy,” while noting it was one that could have been prevented. “It is clear very serious mistakes were made in the course of Mr. Simcakoski’s treatment. As we move forward the Tomah VA needs to immediately take steps to implement the changes recommended in the OIG report as well as other commonsense solutions to fix the problems we have seen at Tomah and at other VA medical facilities,” Kind said.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) said the report confirms VA doctors failed to keep their promise to Simcakoski. “I have all the evidence I need to conclude that the VA prescribed Jason a deadly mix of drugs that led to his death and that those responsible for this tragic failure should never again serve our veterans and their families,” she said.
Baldwin has introduced legislation named for Simcakoski, which would improve the tools available to VA to prevent future opiate abuse issues. She said “This report highlights the need for the reforms we have proposed to give veterans and their families a stronger voice in their care and put in place stronger oversight and accountability for the quality of care we are providing our veterans. Change is possible and I will continue my fight for it.”