December 01, 2017

Senator Hassan Cosponsors Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Opioid Safety in the VA Community Care Programs

 

WASHINGTON –  Senator Maggie Hassan cosponsored a bipartisan bill, the Andrew White Veterans Community Care Opioid Safety Act, to strengthen opioid therapy safety and pain care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) community care programs, including through the VA Choice program.

“We know that many Granite Staters and Americans – including our brave veterans – struggle with substance misuse as a result of the overprescribing of opioids,” Senator Hassan said. “While we have made progress in reducing overprescribing within the VA through stronger oversight and accountability, community care providers that serve many veterans are not currently subject to the same guidelines. This bipartisan legislation is a positive step in ensuring that veterans across New Hampshire and the country receive the best care possible, including safe and effect pain management services.”

The Andrew White Veterans Community Care Opioid Safety Act was originally introduced by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Jon Tester (D-MT).

A July 2017 VA Office of Inspector General report on opioid prescribing in VA community care programs found that contract providers are not subject to many of the opioid safety reforms implemented at VA. Specifically, community care providers are not aware of and thus, not complying with, VA opioid therapy and safe prescribing protocols. Furthermore, VA is not consistently tracking opioid prescriptions from community care programs due to significant information exchange gaps between VA and non-VA providers.

The Andrew White Veterans Community Care Opioid Safety Act would:

  • Direct VA to provide critical health information, including a list of medications, as well as the latest opioid safety guidelines immediately to a non-VA provider when a veteran accesses services through a community care program to ensure that the provider has the information needed to provide safe and effective care;
  • Require non-VA community care providers to review the updated VA/DOD safe opioid prescribing guidelines and Opioid Safety Initiative protocols prior to delivering care to a veteran;
  • Direct non-VA community care providers to submit opioid medications they prescribe to a veteran to a VA pharmacy for dispensing and to ensure that it is included in the VA database and the patient’s medical record for tracking;
  • Ensure that any veteran with an immediate medical need or who is unable to obtain the prescription at a VA pharmacy due travel distances or undue hardship may access it at another pharmacy, and directs their community care provider to notify and provide information on the prescription to VA;
  • Hold VA accountable by requiring compliance reports to Congress and ensures that VA can take action to protect veterans if a non-VA community care provider is not delivering safe or appropriate care. 

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