COATESVILLE (October 28, 2017) – State Senator Andy Dinniman joined U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, officials from the Coatesville VA Medical Center (CVMAC) and other state, local, and federal representatives and officials for a panel discussion on the opioid epidemic and what the VA is doing for veterans.

The panel, which also included U.S. Reps. Llyod Smucker and Patrick Meehan and Acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Health and Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine, heard from VA addiction specialists, pharmacists, psychologists, social workers and local law enforcement, as well as two veterans who are in recovery.

Senator Dinniman (left) with U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (right).

Lori Craig, a veteran who is in recovery and works at the Coatesville VA, recounted her experience battling opioid addiction after she was prescribed pain medication following a car accident.

John Kruzel praised the team at the Coatesville VA and the credited the inpatient treatment he received in aiding in his recovery after he became physically dependent on and addicted to opioids.

“I don’t know what it is about this VA, but all the people care,” he said. “When you come here, you really feel like you’re part of a family.”

Dinniman proposed increased cooperation between the Coatesville VA and the greater Coatesville and Downingtown area in sharing information and working together in the fight against opioid addiction.

Senator Dinniman and U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan listen to addiction specialists from the Coatesville VA Medical Center discuss their inpatient addiction programs.

“There is no doubt that this is an epidemic,” he said. “We need to also reach veterans in our homeless shelters and those who may be incarcerated, as well as other members of the community who are suffering from addiction. There are some great things going on at the VA and we need to share information, methods, and strategies on what works in helping our residents on the path to recovery.”

Secretary Shulkin and CVMAC officials endorsed Dinniman’s proposal and the idea of increased cooperation with the community across the spectrum of public health, social services, law enforcement and recovery services in assisting those suffering from addiction.

Dinniman, who serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, also said he was interested in sharing information with the CVMAC involving the treatment of trauma as he is spearheading efforts at the state level to address the impact of trauma on students in the classroom.

Upon a request from CVMAC, Dinniman and Levine also pledged to help get the anti-opioid overdose drug Narcan (Naloxone) into the hands of social workers.

Secretary Shulkin praised the Coatesville VA and its staff for providing extensive treatment options and a continuum of care that is both unique and effective in combating opioid addiction.

“In the private sector, with the way our reimbursement system works, this continuity of care just doesn’t exist,” he said. “Here you have people who not only have the strength to seek help, but that help is available here.”

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