On Sept. 20, National Director of Policy and Advocacy Cindy Steinberg spoke on a panel at a public meeting about chronic pain and substance use disorder at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) in Washington, D.C.

The goal of the meeting was to discuss CMS’s plans to address the opioid crisis and pain management. That included reviewing current efforts underway by various federal agencies, along with exploring new approaches through presentations from leading experts. (In 2018, Congress directed CMS to review its coverage and payment policies to determine whether they have resulted in incentives or disincentives that have contributed to the opioid crisis.)

Steinberg spoke on the panel, “Personal Perspectives on Pain and Substance Use Disorders,” with Admiral James Sandy Winnefed Jr., founder of the SAFE (Stop the Addiction Fatality Epidemic) Project.

She spoke about her personal pain journey, describing how her spine was crushed in a workplace accident when file cabinets (and the walls temporarily stacked behind them) fell on top of her. It took her five years of searching to find a helpful doctor and a treatment plan that helped make her severe muscle, nerve, and joint pain more manageable.

Steinberg discussed the challenges of pain management in America, emphasizing that chronic pain is far more than a physical condition; rather, it affects emotional well-being, quality of life, productivity, and can even lead to suicide. She talked about the immense stigma associated with chronic pain, the significant lack of provider education on effective pain management, and the inaccessibility of many therapies.

Steinberg urged CMS to create policies that support more individualized, multimodal approaches to pain management, recognizing that each person is different. She asked that CMS treat chronic pain like it does heart disease, creating models of care that better address the complexities of the condition.

Steinberg—and other experts throughout the day—also emphasized the importance of implementing the recommendations in the federal report on Pain Management Best Practices.

CMS is also requesting public comment by Oct. 11 at 5 pm EST. Learn more here.