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Mar 4, 2016 5:44 PM

Landrigan: Congress comes to NH to examine how veterans handle opioid addiction

CONCORD - Veterans risk their lives for us; many come back broken and vulnerable.

"I mean they have legitimate pain, cancer and loss of limbs," Congresswoman, Annie Kuster said. "Veterans that come back with very severe pain but also making sure we don’t put them at greater risk which is opioid addiction."

Kuster brought a congressional hearing to Concord Friday to examine whether the Veterans Administration is doing all it can.

"There have been countless examples of veteran being over-medicated or experiencing adverse drug reactions due to improper treatment or non-existent monitoring," said U.S. Rep. Michael Coffman, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on oversight.

In Manchester and White River Junction, V.t. they are using alternative therapies for pain like yoga and acupuncture, but these practices aren’t widely shared.

"They are working hard to bring down opioid addictions but what we know is we can do better across the country," Kuster said.

Congressman Frank Guinta said this hearing exposed other problems.

"There are some obstacles that were identified, particularly access to the choice card, and also access to that alternative programming whether it is in Vermont or Manchester," Guinta said.

Meanwhile the ribbon was cut at Ray House, a 21-bed unit for substance abusers named after restaurant magnate Alex Ray who donated to the project.

Half of the beds in Franklin are for veterans and first responders.

"We all want to do something about veterans, we want to make sure we remember why we’re able to walk around and be free and have the privileges that we have," said Dr. Cheryl Wilkie, senior vice president with Easter Seals that operates the Farnum Center.

Kuster said she and Coffman will be co-sponsoring legislation to expand the use of alternative therapies at VA clinics across the nation.

"The one thing I am very proud about is that this is not a partisan issue, it’s very bipartisan," Kuster said.

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