NASW attends first pain care policy congress

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

A key step in implementing solutions for the opioid overdose epidemic was reached in San Diego in October where days later the opioid crisis was officially declared a national public health emergency.

Opioid epidemic and drug abuse conceptSeventy representatives from more than 50 organizations, including NASW, gathered in California for the first ever Integrative Pain Care Policy Congress during the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Integrative Pain Management (AIPM).

Attendees, who represented licensed and certified health care providers, public and private payers, policy advocates, and research organizations, debated and devised a universal definition of comprehensive integrative pain management.

The statement is: “Comprehensive integrative pain management includes biomedical, psychosocial, complementary health, and spiritual care. It is person-centered and focuses on maximizing function and wellness. Care plans are developed through a shared decision-making model that reflects the available evidence regarding optimal clinical practice and the person’s goals and values.”

The Congress was a “giant first step forward,” bringing together diverse participants for the first time to discuss how they can advance integrative pain care, organizers said.

Dr. Soma Wali, representing the American College of Physicians, commented in a press statement that “Advancing evidence-based treatment for pain is a high priority for our organization, and the strength of this collective group was extremely motivating – we all have the same common goal to provide the best care to our patients and to continue to save lives.”

Dr. Clay Jackson, AIPM board president, said participants agreed that “lasting solutions require a culture change and payment reform in health care, with a deeper understanding of the interplay among pain management, behavioral health, and addiction.”

Bob Twillman, executive director of the Academy of Integrative Pain Management, said in the press release that efforts must be made to promote quality care focused on function and wellness, not care guided only by what payers are covering.

“We must continue discussions with payers and researchers to review and enhance the existing evidence in service of expanding payer coverage of safe and effective pain treatments,” he said.

Carrie Dorn, NASW senior practice associate, attended the congress and submitted an NASW statement to attendees.

It noted social workers are a critical part of the integrative services across health care settings and that they practice from a strengths perspective that promotes resilience and self-determination.

It explained that increased opioid abuse and misuse have created barriers to integrative pain care.

“It is germane that policies, regulations, and provider practices be adapted to address opioid misuse,” NASW said.

At the same time, maintaining access to integrative pain care – including, but not limited to, appropriate use of opioids – is essential to the quality of life for individuals, families and communities, NASW stated.

“The continued integration of social workers in health care teams can help to achieve this outcome, and the increased intervention of health social workers to pain care may be one of the positive consequences of the opioid crisis,” the statement says.

More information:

From the January 2018 NASW News.


  1. Thanks I agree completely with the author! I agree that there is a need to fight the opioid overdose epidemic. I think it is necessary to create new social teams and instruct doctors. I think the active intervention of the system in this problem can prevent a large number of cases and keep the health of the nation at a high level.

  2. I am a substance abuse counselor and wetness addiction the began as a result of simply trying to manage pain. In integrative approach I believe is essential. It is encouraging to say serious discussions at all levels beginning to take place across the country. Pain management needs to incorporate more than simply medications.

  3. Steven Lipsky, LCSW, CASAC

    Ten years ago, at the hight of my professional career as a Dually Licensed Social Worker and Addiction Specialist, I was in a tragic hit and run accident, leaving me with a fractured spine requiring extensive, multiple reconstructive surgeries. The ensuing pain was far beyond my worst imaginable fears and then some. My recovery took many years of exhaustive and brutalizing work on multiple fronts with an army of outstanding professionals. I am finally about 85% close to my previous levels of functioning. I still require low doses of opioid medications to keep me going daily. Without them, I would have been bedridden and institutionalized and most likely suicidal.

  4. I completely understand the epidemic of drug overdose and misuse of pain medication. but, I have 4 collage degrees and when I was beaten by an ex husband, my world did a 180, I not only had to give up my “career,” but my children had to watch their mother basically go from wonder woman to lucky to be able to stand up long enough to cook them food. during this beating i received a ruptured brain aneurysm, along with gran-mal seizures, and ended up having to get on disability, have chronic pain 24 hrs a day every single day. for over 10 yrs now I have settled for a pain level of, 8-9 and that is the lowest, but only if I can have my 4-20 mg pain med then R can even walk my dog. i now Rhroumatoid arythis and becauseIi have been in pain for so long i never said anything to my dr about the extra pain I was having [if you do that then they just think you want more pills] but because I did not say anything for over a yr, i am past the beginning stages of it. so, yes, lets get control of the misuse and overdoses, but please don’t forget about the people that just want to walk their dog, thank you for your time s

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