By Frank Lewis
Ohio Congressman Brad Wenstrup, a physician and Army Reserve Lt. Colonel, says he is keeping pressure on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) when it comes to combating the national prescription drug abuse epidemic.
In a hand-delivered letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Wenstrup pressed the department for a concrete update on its progress in connecting with state prescription monitoring programs. The letter highlights what he calls “growing concerns regarding the VA’s ability to develop appropriate technology and standards” to effectively communicate with state programs, like the fully operating Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS).
“As a physician, I fully appreciated the OARRS system in private practice. It’s an easy and effective tool in our battle against addiction, and we need the VA to be a willing partner in this fight,” Wenstrup said. “We need the federal government to participate in order to fully succeed at the state and local levels.”
In 2011, Congress granted the VA authority to participate with state systems like OARRS. Yet, years later, little progress has been made.
“I’m repeatedly hearing from local law enforcement that we need the VA to fully participate to effectively combat prescription drug abuse in southern Ohio,” Wenstrup said.
Wenstrup said he also questioned top VA officials in a Veterans Affairs Committee oversight hearing, asking “what percentage of VA hospitals are participating” in state programs. He said Dr. Robert A. Petzel, VA Under Secretary for Health, didn’t have an answer to how many hospitals were reporting VA prescriptions. Petzel blamed a lack of technology infrastructure, despite saying the Department had enough money.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.