On Tuesday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee unanimously passed U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn’s (FL-02) legislation, the Veterans Opioid Abuse Prevention Act, which directs Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare providers to share prescribing data across a national network of interstate prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). PDMPs improve a doctor’s ability to identify at-risk patients who may have a pattern of prescription opioid abuse.
Just like private sector physicians, VA doctors consult state-based PDMPs before prescribing potentially dangerous pain medications to veterans. Unfortunately, VA providers do not have the authority to share prescribing data across state lines or nationwide. This prescribing information can identify someone from another state who is at high risk for abuse, overdose, and death.
“Veterans across our country are suffering from addiction and opioid abuse. As a doctor and a veteran, I have met heroes who need help, but aren’t finding it at the VA. We can change that,” said Dunn. “The VA is the largest healthcare provider in the country, and is in a unique position to lead the initiative to prevent opioid abuse, particularly among our veterans. By increasing transparency in opioid prescribing, we can identify abuse patterns and ensure our veterans are getting the best possible care.”
Dr. Phil Roe, from Tennessee, chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs committee said that ““As we work to tackle the opioid epidemic, we must take every step to promote safe prescribing practices that protect America’s heroes from the dangers of opioid abuse. I’m proud the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs advanced Dr. Dunn’s legislation to allow for the greater sharing of information between VA and state-based prescription drug monitoring programs, and I’m grateful for his continued work on this issue.”
The President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued a preliminary report in July 2017 that cited the lack of interoperability between states as one significant shortcoming of state PDMPs. Dunn’s legislation aligns with the White House’s recommendation the VA lead efforts to have all state and federal PDMPs share information.
“Our veterans are true American heroes, let’s give them a fighting chance and ensure no one slips through the cracks and becomes a victim of the opioid crisis,” said Dunn.
Dunn, who represents the 2nd Congressional District, which includes Franklin County, has been working in Congress to fight the opioid crisis and recently held his first of several Opioid Listening Sessions at the Bay County Sheriff’s Office. He heard from law enforcement, local leaders, organizations from the health care community, faith-based organizations, and recovering opioid users, all fighting to end this epidemic and save lives.
The legislation is supported by Paralyzed Veterans of America, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Dunn’s legislation has 37 cosponsors, including House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (OR-02), and the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force Co-Chair Anne McLane Kuster (NH-02).