The state of Ohio has seen its share of despair caused by the opiate epidemic. High unemployment numbers in the state have been one attributing factor to the high numbers of opiate addiction and overdoses in the state. Senator Sherrod Brown has seen enough and is getting involved with a group to help them with their struggles.
U.S. Senator Brown announced this past week that he will be co-sponsoring legislation that will target safer and more effective pain management services for veterans in the state of Ohio. Brown is no stranger to the issue of opiate addiction, he has been a supporter for legislation he co-sponsored a year ago aimed at making it easier for those addicted to opiates to seek treatment. “Opioid abuse in Ohio has been an increasing problem for a number of years. It’s easier for Americans to access opioids than treatment,” says Brown.
The senator’s office released some overdose data for the state of Ohio provided by the department of health. Between the years 2008 and 2013, there were 74 overdose deaths in Medina County alone, and 10,231 throughout the state of Ohio. “Each year, 475,000 emergency room visits nationwide are attributed to opioids and painkillers,” Brown said. “Too many patients are languishing on waiting lists.”
The bill introduced this week is packed with outstanding changes to the way the state will handle issues involving opiate abuse. It will require stronger guidelines for opioid prescribing and education for Veterans Affairs providers. This includes very strict standards against prescribing dangerous, sometimes deadly, combinations of opioid medications and prescribing opioid painkillers to patients with mental health diagnosis. It will also require better communication between VA facilities. This improvement in coordination will create a safer environment for the facilities, providers, patients and their families. Lastly, it will have higher expectations and hold the VA responsible for the correct care of patients through reviews and audit reports to Congress.
The director of the Medina County Veterans Service Office, Ed Zachary fully supports the legislature. “I don’t think the problem is just in the veterans community, but unfortunately veterans often have serious pain when they return home,” Zachary said. “I don’t know any veteran that enjoys taking pills, and there should be guidelines for both the VA and the private sector on how those pills should be managed.”
The work being done in the state of Ohio to protect and provide the best possible treatment for their veterans is outstanding. Expect to see many states follow in the footsteps of this legislation. The VA has a lot of room for improvement and has been under plenty of scrutiny over the past few years. It is comforting to see changes being made where they so desperately need them.