providence va

Cynthia Goldsmith / CDC

Here’s what’s happening in health in Rhode Island (for 7/19/16 - 7/26/16): federal drug czar visits, a new college at URI, community health grants, Zika funding, addiction treatment, a sports program for disabled veterans, and a health system merger proceeds, but not as quickly as the parties would like.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Veterans seeking care at the Providence VA can now sign up for acupuncture treatments. It’s just one of several new alternative medical therapies offered at the VA to try to address pain and mental health. 

Rhode Island’s only law school, in partnership with a local law firm, is opening a legal clinic for disabled veterans. Students at the Roger Williams University Law School will work directly with veterans.

     

With a little supervision, the lawyers-in-training will help veterans who have been denied disability benefits, navigate the appeals process.

Erik Wallim, director of the veterans’ advocacy group Operation Stand Down Rhode Island, says that process can involve a lot of red tape and long wait times for a resolution.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The Veterans Health Administration has stepped up efforts to fight drug overdose deaths and prescription painkiller addiction.

Veterans are more likely to suffer from chronic pain than others, and opioid painkillers have been a mainstay of treatment.

RIPR FILE

The Providence VA is stepping up efforts to curb prescription painkiller abuse and overdose deaths. Now there are two new tools in the fight.

Nationwide, the VA rolled out its opioid safety initiative in 2013. Since then, VA systems around the country have begun tracking painkiller and other prescriptions better. That includes a new system to track whether a patient has also been prescribed a class of medication called benzodiazepines, which can be dangerous when combined with opioids.

RIPR

An Associated Press analysis finds some veterans are waiting longer than the VA’s 30 day goal for a medical appointment. But at the Providence VA, just two percent of appointments fail to meet that goal. That's an improvement from six months ago, when about six percent of wait times failed to meet the timeliness goal.

Screenshot of live stream of hearing

In our ongoing series about hepatitis C, we look now at one of the hardest hit populations: veterans. Hep C is three times more prevalent among vets than in the general population. The Veterans Health Administration has the country’s largest hepatitis C screening and treatment program in the country. But that program is struggling to pay for new treatments – and the rising number of veterans who need them.

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Providence VA Medical Center

Tonight, the VA hospital in Providence will hold a town hall meeting for veterans, their family, and the public. VAs around the country were directed to hold such public meetings by the end of this month. The aim: to regain trust after a widespread scheduling scandal.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has conducted audits of medical centers around the country after allegations emerged that some centers had concealed appointment wait times. The Providence VA was audited on Friday last week. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs secretary Eric Shinseki ordered the audits to uncover any other scheduling problems or misconduct. Providence VA spokeswoman Leslie Pierson says auditors spent all day Friday interviewing staff about scheduling practices.