Advocacy, Health, Opioids

A Seat (or Cot) at the Table

Pain patients need and deserve a seat at the table, and despite the slightly exploitative NBS News headline that accompanied the above photo: “Woman in cot testifies to Congress on opioids, chronic pain management,” yesterday, we had one.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) heard from Cindy Steinberg, National Director of Policy and Advocacy for U.S. Pain Foundation, during its February 12, 2019 hearing on “Managing Pain During the Opioid Crisis.”

Ms. Steinberg was injured more than 18 years ago at her workplace, when a stack of unsecured filing cabinets and cubicle walls fell on her. The accident left her with a chronic condition that makes it difficult for her to be upright for more than a few hours at a time without severe pain and muscle spasms. In the aftermath of her injury, she launched a support group that advocates on behalf of those of us with chronic pain conditions.

50 million Americans are affected by chronic pain, and 20 million Americans suffer from high-impact chronic pain that interferes with basic functioning, including work, sleep and activities of daily living, like personal hygiene and household chores. It’s the leading cause of long-term disability, but various misguided efforts to contain the opioid epidemic have punished chronic pain sufferers and crippled treatment plans.

“The opioid crisis has only underscored our failure to provide adequate, safe, accessible treatment options for pain relief,” Ms. Steinberg said during her testimony. “In the near term, we must invest in the discovery of new, effective, and safe options for people living with pain.”

As someone who lives with chronic pain on a daily basis, I’m grateful to Ms. Steinberg for bravely sharing her story and perspective, as well as dedicating herself to advocating for better care in the pain community.

At yesterday’s hearing, she urged Congress to restore more balance to opioid prescribing and to improve pain care overall by funding and implementing measures outlined in the new Pain Management Best Practices draft report. In particular, she emphasized the importance of investing in research on safer, more effective treatment options, from medical devices to complementary therapies to medical cannabis.

You can watch a recording of the hearing here, or download Cindy’s written testimony here.

Because this is a marathon and not a sprint, it’s extremely important that we keep the momentum going. We can thank members of Congress for holding a hearing on pain and urge them to implement the measures Ms. Steinberg discussed.

Check here to see if your Senator sits on the HELP Committee. If they do, click this link to thank them. Even if your Senator isn’t on the HELP Committee, you can still send a note letting them know you appreciate Congress holding a hearing on pain.

The Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force is an advisory group overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense. Its 29 members include federal officials and pain experts from both academia and private practice, as well as one patient/patient advocate representative: Cindy Steinberg.

The task force’s charge is to update best practices and recommendations on pain management for the nation, including relevant federal health agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

The task force is seeking comments from the public. Feedback is vital to ensuring the report’s recommendations reflect the patient voice. Comments are due by 5 pm EST on April 1, 2019.

There are several ways you can submit your comments:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health
200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Room 736E,
Attn: Alicia Richmond Scott, Task Force Designated Federal Officer
Washington, DC 20201

Whether you’re a chronic pain patient or care for someone with chronic pain, your voice cannot be left out of the discussion. Please join in the fight for better, more humane pain treatment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s