Weatherford Democrat

March 16, 2014

VETERANS’ CORNER: Reducing opioids use among vets goal of VA

Weatherford Democrat


The Department of Veterans Affairs has initiated a multi-faceted approach to reduce the use of opioids among America’s veterans using VA health care.

The Opioid Safety Initiative is a comprehensive effort to improve the quality of life for the hundreds of thousands of veterans suffering from chronic pain.

OSI was launched in October 2013 in Minneapolis, Minn., and is demonstrating success in lowering dependency on this class of drugs. At eight sites of care in Minnesota, OSI practices have decreased high-dose opioid use by more than 50 percent. OSI incorporates the team approach with the goal of reducing opioid use by alleviating a veteran’s pain using non-prescription methods.

There is an emphasis on patient education, close patient monitoring with frequent feedback and complementary and alternative medicine practices, such as acupuncture. As a result, the development and implementation of joint pain management guidelines, which encourages the use of other medications and therapies, in lieu of habit forming opiates, gives hope to the veterans suffering with chronic pain. 

The OSI faces the challenge of opioid dependency with an innovative and comprehensive plan that closely monitors VA’s dispensing practices system-wide and coordinates pain management to include patient and provider education, testing and tapering programs, and alternative therapies like acupuncture and behavior therapy.

Veterans enrolled in the VA health care system suffer from high rates of chronic pain. Each VA facility employs personnel including, Interdisciplinary Pain Medicine Specialty Teams and Consult Services, Facility Pain Committees, Pharmacy Care/PACT, and other professionals to accomplish the goals and objectives of the OSI.

The VA also has developed other patient management initiatives including Pain Coach, which is a pain management app available for download, a Veteran’s Pain Library, a Patient/Family Toolkit, and resources for pain management on My Health Vet. All of these application’s allow veterans to better manage their pain without the use of opioids. VA’s measurement based pain care also includes the “Pain Scale,” which reduces uncertainty and helps veterans by discussing the potential benefits of a medication and possible side-effects. 

The OSI is an example of the continued personalized, proactive and patient-centered approach to veteran’s health care. The patient’s long term health goals are at the forefront of the VA’s initiatives. For further information visit VA health care at

Avoid “the pinch” March 17 – find something green. AmVets welcomes new member Shannon Baker.

Speak to you again next week.

Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133.