Bipartisan effort cites prevention and integrative health solutions to combat opioid crisis

Integrative health approaches and preventative care are key strategies for combating the opioid crisis, according to representatives at the inaugural meeting of the new Integrative Health and Wellness Caucus held on  March 15.

Representatives Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Jared Polis (D-CO) hosted their staff and healthcare stakeholders on Capitol Hill for the gathering, a standing room only crowd gathered to discuss the role of integrative therapies in the overall healthcare system. The collective efforts of the bipartisan team of Coffman and Polis, supported by the Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC), attracted a wide array of staff members representing the House of Representatives and Senate elected officials from states of Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah.

“I think it’s important for patients to have all the facts and latest research when it comes to therapies and treatments available to them when making medical decisions,” Coffman said in a March 21 announcement.

The Caucus will discuss how Congress can solve major healthcare issues in the U.S., as well as how to better meet the healthcare needs of citizens with integrative health and wellness options, according to Polis.

He emphasized the importance of the timing of this Caucus to bring attention to successful nonpharmacological and other whole-person care options to the nation’s pain management crisis and opioid epidemic, which the Council on Foreign Relations cites as beyond the risks it poses to public health, it is becoming a drag on the economy and a threat to national security.

Other caucus attendees included representatives from the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Air Force Medical Service. Registrants were also representatives from as many as thirty medical groups, insurers, hospitals, service providers, learning institutions, healthcare lobbying firms, and patient groups that support integrative healthcare.

The educational forum included a panel of experts, including Margaret Chesney, PhD, past chair of the  Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health and Former Deputy Director of NCCIH; Eric Schoomaker, MD, PhD, LTG U.S. Army (RET), former U.S. Army Surgeon General and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Command; Peter F. Demitry, M.D., MPH, Executive Director, National Foundation for Integrative Medicine and former Assistant Air Force Surgeon General for Modernization; and Benjamin Kligler, MD, national director of the Integrative Health Coordinating Center Office of Patient-Centered Care & Cultural Transformation at the Veterans Health Administration (VA).

Speakers discussed effective solutions and innovative protocols in public health and among military personnel and veterans for addiction and pain management that emphasize nonpharmacological approaches.

This kick-off to the newly formed Integrative Health and Wellness Caucus is the start of informing and educating Congress, policy-makers and agencies about the improved outcomes and cost-saving possible when healthcare is oriented to prevention, wellness and wellbeing.

“This caucus is the start of an important conversation to shift our healthcare paradigm from a reactive model to whole-person preventive outcomes,” said Len Wisneski, M.D., chair of the IHPC. “American’s have spent billions of dollars out-of-pocket on complementary and integrative care. It is time that Congress and healthcare payers and systems respond by including all credentialed and licensed providers and evidence-based care approaches into the choices available to all Americans.”