A bill introduced by Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster would launch pilot programs in five states to reduce the use of opioid medications and increase the use of alternative treatments.
She spoke Wednesday about the bill, which is called "Helping Our Veterans with Chronic Pain & Opioid Addiction Act," at the White River Junction, Vt. Veterans Administration hospital. That's where one such program has been running for a few years. Those alternative treatments include yoga, acupuncture, and physical therapy as well as mental health care. Kuster says some veterans who have reduced opiate medications and done alternative treatments instead have experienced a better quality of life. "If you talk with them about their experience, they would say this is better for them than high doses of opioid medication for chronic pain, which may lead to addiction," she says. Prescription opioid overdose rates for veterans getting care at the VA are twice the national average. The five states that would participate in this pilot program have not yet been determined. The bill also would expand the availability of the overdose reversal drug naloxone to the entire VA system.