Contest winner meets president

Nancy Fichtner called it a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” and an “honor” to meet President Barack Obama, who on Monday presented her the first award from a new federal program designed to find ways to save tax dollars.

But forgive her, Mr. President, if the Loma resident is ready to get back to western Colorado and put her idea to work.

Fichtner’s was one of more than 38,000 ideas submitted to the Office of Management and Budget and Securing Americans Value and Efficiency, or SAVE. Obama launched SAVE last spring, encouraging federal workers to come up with methods for the government to operate more efficiently and effectively.

Fichtner, a support clerk at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Grand Junction, suggested allowing patients at VA hospitals and other federally run medical facilities to take home unfinished medications they used in the hospital. Typically, in federal and many privately run medical facilities, those medicines are discarded and new prescriptions are written.

The concept involves using new technology to put the same information on the medication used in the hospital as on the medications that go home with patients.

“It’s really not too much more complicated than that,” said Michael Valentino, the chief of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Pharmacy Benefits Management Services. “It just makes common sense.”

U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., separately congratulated Fichtner for continuing “Mesa County’s tradition of common sense health care and cost-savings innovation.”

Salazar’s 3rd Congressional District includes most of the Western Slope.

Federal officials said preliminary estimates show the government could save $3.8 million a year by implementing Fichtner’s idea.

“I can’t wait to get over to the VA and talk to these guys about it,” she said in a teleconference with reporters on Monday, hours after she and her two children, 19-year-old Alex and 16-year-old Kasey Ann, met Obama at the White House. “Let’s get it going.”

Fichtner’s brainchild was one of four national finalists in the SAVE program. More than 85,000 people cast online votes for their favorite idea.

The other finalists were:

An Alabama woman for the Social Security Administration who suggested that money could be saved by scheduling appointments online.

A West Virginia National Forest worker who came up with an idea to streamline how visitor fees and other funds are deposited into government accounts.

An Alaska man who came up with a way to limit redundant inspections of subsidized housing units.

Federal officials said hundreds of ideas that were submitted to SAVE will be implemented.


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