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00000174-c556-d691-a376-cdd69e980000Day after day, week after week, the headlines in Northeast Ohio and across much of the country contain news of tragic loss: lives lost to opioids. It’s a problem that knows no bounds: geography, race, gender, level of education or income.The problem took on new urgency this summer as the powerful elephant sedative, Carfentanil, began hitting the streets. First responders armed with their only weapon, the overdose antidote Naloxone, have struggled to keep up with what’s become an overwhelming problem. It’s an issue that’s straining public and social resources. What has become clear is that business as usual is not going to fix the problem.WKSU news has been covering the unfolding crisis. Tuesdays during Morning Edition, the WKSU news team digs even deeper. WKSU reporters will examine what’s led us here and what might be done to turn the tide. Support for Opioids: Turning the Tide in the Crisis comes from Wayne Savings Community Bank, Kent State University Office of Continuing and Distance Education, Hometown Grocery Delivery, Mercy Medical Center, AxessPointe Community Health Center, Community Support Services, Inc., Medina County District Library and Hudson Community First.00000174-c556-d691-a376-cdd69e980001

Cleveland VA Medical Center Shares Alternatives to Opioids with Presidential Task Force

photo of VA medical center
The president's opioid task force, headed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, met at the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center this week.

The U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs joined President Trump’s opioid task force at the Cleveland VA Medical Center on Thursday.  They were in town to hear from VA doctors on their best practices for pain management and opioid use. 

Guidelines for prescribing opioids, alternative medicine for dealing with pain, and a continuum of care for opioid addiction – these are among the best practices the VA has been using nationally since 2013.  The Cleveland VA began even earlier.  Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David Shulkin said Cleveland is showing strong results.

“Just four percent of the patient population they serve are using and being prescribed opioids, which is well, well below what you would find across the country," Shulkin said.

At a roundtable discussion that included President Trump’s advisor, Kellyanne Conway, the VA shared some of its practices to address pain, including the use of alternative treatments such as acupuncture, yoga and meditation. 

“In not all cases must pain management mean pain medicine," Conway said. "There are opioids and there are other modalities.  And we saw that first hand here.  To read about it is one thing.  To intuit as a lay person is quite another.  But to see it in practice is quite remarkable and something I will take back to the White House and really never forget.”

The opioid task force will issue its report on November first.  The group’s chairman, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, said he expects the president to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency “in the very near future.”