VA Boosting Efforts to Prevent Opioid Thefts

More drug testing and inspections are being implemented at Veterans Affairs health facilities in an effort to stem growing numbers of opioid thefts and missing prescriptions, a department official said Monday.

The VA says oversight shortfalls mean thousands of doctors, nurses and other employees have not been checked for signs of illicit drug use, the Associated Press reported.

The VA is adding inspectors to monitor drug inventories at 160 medical centers and 1,000 clinics, and computer systems are being upgraded to ensure that all employees subject to drug testing are flagged for monitoring, Carolyn Clancy, a deputy VA undersecretary for health, testified at a hearing of the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on oversight.

She also said the VA recently held a conference call with hundreds of health clinics to develop improvement action plans, and that the department is also considering more internal audits to ensure hospitals comply with VA policy, the AP reported.

"The use of illegal drugs by VA employees is inconsistent with the special trust placed in such employees who care for veterans," Clancy told the House panel. "We actually need to up our game."

Reported cases of drug loss or theft at federal hospitals rose from 272 in 2009 to 2,926 in 2015, before falling to 2,457 last year, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Federal hospitals include VA facilities, seven correctional hospitals and about 20 hospitals serving Indian tribes, the AP reported.

Last week, the AP reported that government data showed a significant rise since 2009 in opioid theft and drug loss at the VA.

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