Birmingham veterans healthcare workers pitch their efforts to ditch opioids in DC

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Veterans Affairs health workers are in our nation’s capital this week for the Veterans Health Administration’s Innovation Experience. Folks from the Birmingham VA are joining the crowd as they try to tackle an issue affecting every community in the U.S.

Birmingham healthcare workers are looking beyond opioids to help veterans recover. (Source: WBRC)

“The opioid crisis facing our nation is just devastating,” said Sherry Cox from the Birmingham VA.

Cox says veterans are constantly offered to opioids to deal with different types of pain. She and Mike Moates, a physician at the Birmingham VA, were on a mission at the innovation summit to show opioids are not the only solution.

“The whole health approach really places the patient at the center of decision making and really gets them to think about not so much what’s the matter, but what matters to them,” said Moates.

They say getting veterans off of opioids and hooked on things like yoga, acupuncture, physical therapy, and other recovery options is working for most of their patients.

“It’s putting them in the driver’s seat,” said Cox.

The Veterans Health Administration believes veterans need this kind of specific care for differing needs in different areas. Dr. Ryan Vega hopes these innovation summits can bring health care to new heights.

“They’re committed to this idea of mission driven innovation to change and save veteran lives,” said Vega.

He sees access as the great challenge for veterans when it comes to receiving adequate healthcare. He thinks a large portion of veterans prefer VA services, so innovators should focus on getting them services wherever they might be.

“It’s really important that the focus shift on making sure that we’re asking the right questions. We’re asking veterans ‘does this solution work for you?’” said Vega.

The innovation event lasted two days.

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