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Neal Dunn's Bill Helping Veterans With Opioids Gains Traction in Congress

May 9, 2018 - 9:15am
Neal Dunn and Phil Roe
Neal Dunn and Phil Roe

U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn’s, R-Fla., proposal helping veterans suffering from opioid abuse is building steam on Capitol Hill as the U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed his “Veterans Opioid Abuse Prevention Act" without opposition. 

Dunn’s bill would direct the VA secretary  to connect VA doctors and health care providers to a national network of state-based prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) which track prescribing data for patients prescribed drugs like oxycodone, morphine and hydrocodone to relieve pain.

The PDMPs identify and alert of abuse patterns in patients, a key step to stopping widespread abuse of the drugs, which are dangerous in part because of their highly addictive properties. 

VA doctors consult the state-based PDMPs before prescribing opioids to veterans, some of whom have suffered injuries while fighting wars overseas. 

VA doctors currently don’t have the ability to consult a national network of state-based PDMPs, which means patients could potentially hop from state to state filling prescriptions without being detected.

Part of the PDMPs’ shortcomings, according to President Donald Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, is the lack of cross-state interoperability. The Commission recommended “enhancing” interstate data sharing among PDMPs to help identify at-risk patients and lessen the potential for drug abuse.

Dunn, who served in the Army as a doctor, brought out the proposal in September and weighed in on its importance on Tuesday. 

“Veterans across our country are suffering from addiction and opioid abuse. As a doctor and a veteran, I have met heroes who need help, but aren’t finding it at the VA. We can change that,” said Dunn. “The VA is the largest health-care provider in the country, and is in a unique position to lead the initiative to prevent opioid abuse, particularly among our veterans. By increasing transparency in opioid prescribing, we can identify abuse patterns and ensure our veterans are getting the best possible care.”

Dunn’s proposal has the firm support of U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., who chairs the Veterans Affairs Committee. 

“As we work to tackle the opioid epidemic, we must take every step to promote safe prescribing practices that protect America’s heroes from the dangers of opioid abuse,” Roe said after the vote. “I’m proud the House Committee on Veterans Affairs advanced Dr. Dunn’s legislation to allow for the greater sharing of information between VA and state-based prescription drug monitoring programs, and I’m grateful for his continued work on this issue.”

Dunn has rounded up 37 cosponsors including Florida Republican U.S. Reps. John Rutherford and Ted Yoho and Florida Democrat U.S. Rep. Darren Soto. The bill also has the support of Paralyzed Veterans of America, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. There is no counterpart over in the Senate as the North Florida Republican continues to push his bill. 

“Our veterans are true American heroes, let’s give them a fighting chance and ensure no one slips through the cracks and becomes a victim of the opioid crisis,” Dunn said.



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