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As I See It

Politicians refuse to take blame but eager to take credit



What took place at the Tomah VA Hospital was a tragedy. What has happened since is unfortunately predictable. Former Marine Jason Simcakoski died of mixed drug toxicity two years ago while under the care of doctors at the Tomah VA. This is when we learned that drugs were being handed out there like candy, to the point that the facility became known as Candyland to patients, and the prescribing doctor earned the nickname Candyman. A whistleblower claims he told a number of Wisconsin lawmakers about what was happening in Tomah, but nothing happened for a period of years. Those lawmakers tended to blame their staffs, or find other excuses for why they did nothing to address the problem of over-prescription of medications for so long. It has even become an issue in the U.S. Senate race between Senator Ron Johnson and challenger Russ Feingold, each claiming the other should have done more sooner. No one wanted to take the blame, but these same lawmakers are quick to claim that they are the ones finally fixing the problem. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Jason Simcakoski PROMISE Act this week, and approval of similar legislation is pending in the U.S. Senate. This legislation provides new guidelines for the safe prescription of opiods including more oversight and more alternative treatments. It is good that our lawmakers are finally taking steps to prevent similar tragedies, but if they are going to claim they are the champions of the solution, they should also be willing to take the blame for past failures.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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