VA faces budget, workforce challenges in reforming pain management practices

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  Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., speaks about the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act at a news conference in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2015. Behind her at left are Marv and Linda Simcakoski, parents of Marine Cpl. Jason Simcakoski, who suffered a fatal overdose while an inpatient at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center in August 2014.  Joe Gromelski/Stars and Stripes
From Stripes.com
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., speaks about the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act at a news conference in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2015. Behind her at left are Marv and Linda Simcakoski, parents of Marine Cpl. Jason Simcakoski, who suffered a fatal overdose while an inpatient at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center in August 2014. Joe Gromelski/Stars and Stripes

VA faces budget, workforce challenges in reforming pain management practices

by: Nikki Wentling | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: December 01, 2016

WASHINGTON – The family of Marine Corps veteran Jason Simcakoski, whose death sparked national debate on opioid overuse and led to mandated reforms within the Department of Veterans Affairs, was in Washington again on Wednesday to make sure the VA was following through.

Simcakoski, who had sought treatment for anxiety attacks, died in August 2014 from a toxic reaction to 13 medications. Investigators found staff psychiatrists at the VA Medical Center in Tomah, Wisc., had given him prescriptions for new medications in the days before his death. It was later discovered overmedication was a systemic issue at the hospital.

In July, about two years after Simcakoski died, President Barack Obama signed the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act, which ordered the VA to come out with new prescribing guidelines and training for its health care providers, establish an office at its headquarters dedicated to patient advocacy and look more to alternative therapies, rather than opioid prescriptions, to treat chronic pain.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., who sponsored the bill, held a roundtable Wednesday with representatives from the VA and the veterans community.

“We didn’t just want to pass the law, we really want to make sure that it’s implemented and that we start to see change,” said Simcakoski’s wife, Heather, on Wednesday. “We understand change takes time. But I really can’t wait for the day that we see drastic improvements. It seems like every day we turn on the news and see that another doctor has overprescribed someone opioids and they overdosed. It’s time for that to stop.”

Read more at: https://www.stripes.com/1.441971