Being part of the solution on the policy-front has been a key priority for the Academy of Integrative Pain Management (formerly the American Academy of Pain Management) for the past five plus years. We continue to track thousands of bills and regulations that affect pain care, and actively engage on the state and national scene to bring balance to needed conversations—and improve policy language in development. This was seen again with our participation in a Senate briefing sponsored by the Alliance to Prevent the Abuse of Medicines and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, titled “Preserving Chronic Pain Patients’ Access to Medicine”, on Thursday, June 16, 2016.
The roundtable discussion involved Bob Twillman, PhD, Executive Director of the Academy, as moderator, and five panelists discussing the opioid abuse epidemic from the viewpoint of patients, advocates and healthcare professionals. Participants shared their experiences and policy recommendations regarding access to opioids for those with chronic pain conditions. As a panelist, a social worker, and director of the State Pain Policy Advocacy Network (SPPAN) for the Academy, I spoke on behalf of the Consumer Pain Advocacy Task Force—a group SPPAN co-facilitates which includes 16 patient organizations working together to implement the National Pain Strategy.
I think the message sent during the briefing was loud and clear. To contribute towards sustainable solutions to our nation’s challenges with prescription medication abuse, we must acknowledge the millions of people with chronic, painful conditions who visit their providers seeking answers. We must improve access—specifically reimbursement in many cases—for non-pharmacological treatments for pain. Healthcare professionals must have more in their toolbox to treat pain than only a prescription pad. And, hand-in-hand, we must improve education and training for healthcare professionals to understand multidisciplinary pain care, and we must allocate research dollars desperately necessary to tell us what treatments work best for whom and for how long.