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Society supports VA Opioid Safety Act

The Wisconsin Medical Society’s Board of Directors voted to support the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act at its Nov. 7 meeting, approving the recommendation of the Society’s Opioid Task Force. The Act, introduced by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, is designed to reform and improve opioid prescribing guidelines for veterans to help reduce the risk of overmedication.

“The Wisconsin Medical Society appreciates Sen. Baldwin’s leadership in introducing the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act and is proud to support the bill. There is an opioid public health crisis in Wisconsin and throughout the country, and this legislation makes important regulatory reforms in the VA System to help ensure safer opioid prescribing for our veterans,” said Society Chief Medical Officer Donn Dexter, MD, in this press release issued by Sen. Baldwin. “Physicians stand ready to be part of the solution, and as the chief medical officer of the Wisconsin Medical Society and a veteran, I am grateful Sen. Baldwin is asking for critical opioid reforms to happen in the VA System.”

The proposed legislation focuses on strengthening the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 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.
  • 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 legislation helps strengthen patient advocacy, expand access to complementary and integrative health and wellness, and enhance VA hiring and internal audits.

The Society’s support of the Act is part of its ongoing commitment to addressing the current opioid crisis. In addition to creating the Opioid Task Force to shape and focus its efforts around policy, physician education and public awareness, the Society has been working with State Rep. John Nygren to advance “Heroin, Opiate Prevention and Education” (HOPE) bills, and also has worked extensively with Attorney General Brad Schimel. In September, Schimel launched “A Dose of Reality,” a statewide campaign to increase awareness and provide information to the public about the dangers of misusing prescription pain medicines.

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