04.28.15

Baldwin Secures Independent Review of VA’s Opioid Prescribing Practices

New law includes direction from Baldwin to include opioid prescribing practices in outside evaluation of VA mental health care and suicide prevention programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As a result of U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s efforts, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act now contains direction to include a review of opioid prescribing practices as part of a larger, independent examination of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mental health care and suicide prevention programs.

In February, Senator Baldwin sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs requesting the inclusion of this provision in the committee’s report accompanying the bill. Committee reports are drafted with the intent to provide guidance to the Executive Branch and the Judicial Branch as they implement and interpret legislation, respectively. This development comes after Senator Baldwin requested, and was granted, a full committee hearing regarding the VA’s opioid prescription policy, practices and procedures.

“The overreliance on opioids within the Department of Veterans Affairs has resulted in our nation’s heroes getting hooked instead of helped,” said Senator Baldwin. Our veterans and their families are grappling with the wounds of war, both seen and unseen. We must do all we can to ensure the treatment they’re receiving does not perpetuate the devastating cycle of addiction that extends far beyond the walls of the VA into our families and communities. I’m grateful to Chairman Isakson and Ranking Member Blumenthal for working with me to reaffirm this commitment as we implement this critical legislation.”  

The Clay Hunt SAV Act, cosponsored by Senator Baldwin, was signed into law in February by President Obama and requires a third-party evaluation of existing mental health care and suicide prevention programs at the VA to gauge their effectiveness and make recommendations for consolidation, elimination or improvement. It also provides for a new website that offers veterans information regarding available mental health care services; create a pilot loan repayment program for VA psychiatrists; improve the exchange of training, best practices, and other resources among the VA and non-profit mental health organizations to enhance collaboration of suicide prevention efforts; create a community outreach pilot program to help veterans transition from active duty service; and extend the ability for certain combat veterans to enroll in the Veterans Health Administration for one year.