Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act would provide VA with the tools it needs to address the problem of overprescribing practices
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today announced that the Wisconsin Medical Society is supporting bipartisan VA reform legislation she has introduced that is aimed at providing safer and more effective pain management services to our nation’s veterans.
"The Wisconsin Medical Society appreciates Senator 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 Donn Dexter, M.D. “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 Senator Baldwin is asking for critical opioid reforms to happen in the VA System."
“I proud to have earned the support of the Wisconsin Medical Society for this bipartisan reform. Families like the Simcakoski family have a story to tell that needs to be heard,” said Senator Baldwin. “After two, decade-long wars, our veterans and their families are facing the difficult challenges of physical injuries, addiction, PTSD and other mental illnesses. We must find safer and more effective ways to confront these problems to help them meet that challenge. My legislation proposes a number of solutions to strengthen opioid prescribing guidelines; improve coordination and communication throughout the VA; and put in place stronger oversight and accountability for the quality of care we are providing our veterans. My goal is to put these reforms in place to prevent Jason’s tragedy from occurring to other veterans and their families.”
Senator Baldwin’s Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act, introduced in June with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), was produced in close consultation with medical professionals, veterans’ service organizations, and the Simcakoski family. The 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; and
- 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 Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act helps strengthen patient advocacy, expand access to complementary and integrative health and wellness, and enhance VA hiring and internal audits.
Senator Baldwin’s bipartisan legislation has also gained support from: Disabled American Veterans Wisconsin, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Veterans for Common Sense, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Association of the United States Navy (AUSN), Military Health Project, National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), American Veterans (AMVETS), American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), and Trust for America's Health (TFAH).
In the U.S. Senate, the Baldwin- Capito legislation is cosponsored by Democrats and Republicans: U.S. Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Al Franken (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Mark Warner (D-VA).
"This is an opportunity to take all of this and learn from it. We have a chance to create a new path; or we can continue how we currently are and keep making the same mistakes we are today,” said Heather Simcakoski, Jason’s widow. “When I look back at the past, I want to know we made a difference. I want to believe we have leaders in our country who care. I want to inspire others to never give up because change is possible."
"This legislation from Senator Baldwin is one of the most important actions we can take to save the lives of our greatest assets, our veterans,” said Marv Simcakoski, Jason’s father.
PHOTOS from press conference introducing legislation are available here.