June 06, 2013

Manchin Cosponsors Bill to Help Veterans and Servicemembers

Bipartisan legislation would address epidemic of veteran suicides

Washington, D.C. – Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) cosponsored bipartisan legislation that addresses the issue of prescription drug abuse among our nation’s servicemembers and veterans. The Servicemembers and Veterans Prescription Drug Safety Act would direct the Attorney General to establish drug take-back programs in coordination with the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“Prescription drug abuse is devastating to communities across West Virginia and this country. The alarming increase among veterans and servicemembers in the past several years is equally troubling,” Senator Manchin said. “Drug take-back programs are an opportunity to safely dispose of extra pills and medications and spread awareness of this critical issue. Let’s continue to work together so that West Virginia and our beautiful country can have strong, drug-free communities that are able to care for our brave veterans and servicemembers.”

Under current law, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has the authority to designate authorized collectors of controlled substances through drug-take back programs for safe disposal of those substances. The DEA, however, has failed to work with the DoD and VA to provide our nation’s servicemembers and veterans with reasonable access to safely return and dispose of prescription medications.

In a January 2012 report, the Army found that 29 percent of military suicides involved individuals with a known history of psychotropic medication use, including anti-depressants and pain medicine, such as opioids.  The report recommended the establishment of a military drug take-back program to help combat prescription drug misuse or abuse in the ranks.

West Virginia has participated in six National Drug Take-Back Days organized by the DEA, which provides an opportunity for residents to dispose of any expired, unused or unwanted prescription drugs. The most recent effort collected more than 4,600 pounds of unused prescription drugs at 100 locations across the state.

This legislation shares bipartisan support by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and John Boozman (R-AR).