Dial’s Legislation Helps Veterans, State Fight Drug Abuse

By Gerald Dial

MONTGOMERY, Ala – On Thursday afternoon, the Alabama House of Representatives gave final passage to Senate Bill 200, legislation sponsored by Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) and Representative April Weaver (R-Alabaster) to help Alabama’s veterans struggling with pain or drug abuse get the care and treatment they need.

America’s servicemen and women returning from active duty can experience various challenges in returning to civilian life, Sen. Dial says, not the least of which can be a hidden personal battle with drug abuse stemming from post-traumatic stress disorder, physical injury in the line of duty, or other ailments.

“Drug abuse affecting our military men and women is something we don’t talk about, but that we know exists, given what many of them have been through,” Dial said. “It’s time we in Alabama did something about it.”

Senate Bill 200 also allows those caring for our veterans to share information and more easily identify potential drug abuse issues in order to help those at-risk find appropriate treatment.  Veterans battling drug abuse may know they need help, Dial says, but are reticent to bring their personal battle to light for fear of stigmatization and ridicule.

“Drug abuse amongst veterans can be a ‘silent struggle’ really, one that tears apart lives and families,” Dial remarked. “They are crying out for help; we just can’t hear them.”

Because current Alabama law complicates the sharing of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) prescription records between the VA and outside entities, veterans’ doctors and families sometimes have a difficult time identifying signs of abuse, recognizing duplicative prescriptions, and helping those at-risk get treatment.

“For a non-VA patient, doctors and pharmacists can easily review relevant prescription records,” Weaver, the House sponsor, said. “But with a veteran, neither the doctors and pharmacists at the VA, nor the doctors and pharmacists outside the VA who are also treating the patient, know what prescriptions the veteran is receiving. This bill will allow them to share that information so we can get our veterans the help they deserve.”

“In order to better combat drug abuse both within the state’s veteran community and statewide across the entire population, SB200 strengthens privacy laws governing use of prescription data,” Weaver added.

By ensuring only legitimate research is conducted – such as efforts to bolster early detection of new drug abuse trends – state resources can be better allocated to protect Alabamians.

Weaver also stressed that “completely de-identified data could soon be available to researchers pursuing federal grants for improving access to care and reducing abuse of prescription medications.”

Gerald Dial represents District 13 in the Alabama State Senate, which includes all or parts of Chambers, Cherokee, Clay, Cleburne, Lee, and Randolph counties.