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VA hospital first to disclose how many opioids it prescribes

Veterans Affairs becomes first hospital disclose how many opioids they prescribe (Photo: KUTV)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (KUTV)- Veterans Affairs took an unprecedented move in its fight against the opioid epidemic. It's the first hospital to tell the public how many opioids it prescribes to patients.

VA officials in Salt Lake City said knowledge is power and they believe releasing the information can help educate veterans and push more people to get help and can prove to be lifesaving for many.

At the Salt Lake City VA hospital, they have a very successful program that has already helped many veterans reduce their opioid use.

“I've always wanted to fence when I was younger but it wasn't an option for females at the time,” Anna Kennedy said. She is one of those Veterans that has gone through the program. Every few days you can find her in South Salt Lake City, ”You get to beat the heck out of somebody, and it's legal,” she said laughing.

Kennedy is using a centuries old sport to help ease her wounds from the battlefield, rather than using more pain medication.

“Basically it takes my mind off the aches and pains of everyday life, I've got a lot of metal in my body from being put back together," she said.

Kennedy is a Navy Veteran and one of many finding success in the Primary Care Pain and Opioid Program at the Salt Lake VA hospital.

“They are able to learn other strategies and techniques to kind of alleviate and mitigate their pain,” said Dr. Amber Martinson, the director for the program.

She said 142 Americans die every day from unintentional opioid overdose.

“The goal isn't taking them off their opioids. The goal is to improve their physical function in the presence of pain and to kind of expose them to alternatives,” she said.

In a historical move, the VA became the first hospital to tell the public how many opioids it's prescribing to patients. The prescribing rate dropped 41 percent over the last 5 years from 2012 to 2017.

“Having this information public can kind of help direct treatments and where do we go from there to come up with a solution,” Martinson said.

With the help of those like Kennedy, Utah is doing even better at 42 percent.

“There's a lot more that still needs to be done, cause like I said I am still starting. It's working, so that's what matters,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy added she also has taken up sled hockey through the VA program and she plans to fence competitively.

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