Forum Describes Alternatives to Treat Veteran Pain

By Sandra Basu

Benjamin Kligler, MD, MPH, national director of the VHA Coordinating Center for Integrative Health

WASHINGTON—A pilot program integrating complementary and integrative health approaches in pain management and mental health services at 15 VA facilities has the potential to help facilitate the understanding of nonpharmacological approaches to treating pain.

Benjamin Kligler, MD, MPH, national director of the VHA Coordinating Center for Integrative Health, described the program at a forum last month.

Calling it an “exciting development on the legislative side,” Kligler explained that the pilot program was one of the provisions in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, which was signed into law in July to help address the opioid epidemic in the United States.

“This will be a three-year pilot program and geographically diverse around the country,” he said. “Hopefully, with a very good measurement system in place to figure out what works and what is effective and cost-effective in bringing this whole-person approach to veterans with pain.”

The pilot program fits well with VA’s whole-health approach that the agency is pursuing at 18 pilot sites that will also focus on pain treatment, mental health treatment and reducing opioid use, he said.

“This congressional mandate to really push forward this more-progressive, whole-person, whole-health, nonpharmacological approach to pain puts us in a strong position to test out some models,” Kligler emphasized.

The goal is to build a learning community that brings together participating VA facilities in the pilot program mandated by law as well as DoD colleagues and facilities “to share the knowledge of what is working and the right measurement strategies,” he said.

The presentation where Kligler made his comments was coordinated by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences through the Defense and Veterans Center for Integrative Pain Management (DVCIPM) at the 2016 AMSUS conference.

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