From left, Palanker, Lemiska, and Steinberg.

On May 30 and 31, U.S. Pain National Director of Policy and Advocacy Cindy Steinberg traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in the inaugural meeting of the Pain Management Best Practices Intra-Agency Task Force. The task force is comprised of 28 experts chosen by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Steinberg is the only patient representative who was selected as a member.

The task force was established to propose updates to best practices and issue recommendations that address gaps or inconsistencies for managing chronic and acute pain. HHS oversees all federal health agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

On the first day, Steinberg and her fellow task force members were sworn in. Vanila Singh, MD, the chair of the task force and chief medical officer in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health, and a pain specialist by training, welcomed all attendees. Secretary of HHS Alex Azar gave opening remarks and urged the group to work together on innovative solutions to the issues at hand.

Steinberg was joined on the first day of the meeting by two additional U.S. Pain representatives: Emily Lemiska, director of communications and operations, who was one of four patients chosen to speak during a patient testimonials session; and Dania Palanker, a Maryland ambassador and assistant research professor at the Georgetown Health Policy Institute, who spoke during the public comment period.

Task force members are sworn in.

Thus far, more than 1,400 individuals have submitted their comments and stories. Steinberg urges all people with pain and their families, friends and caregivers as well as pain management healthcare professionals to take the time to do the same by clicking here. The deadline to submit public comment is June 15.

Following the patient stories segment, task force members heard from experts from the federal, regional, and medical perspectives, ranging from the acting national program director for Pain Management Specialty Care Services at the Veterans Health Administration, to the president of the Texas Medical Board, to the chair of the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Committee on Pain.

Later in the day, Steinberg participated in a panel with a pain management doctor; a pharmacist; a dentist; and a representative from the CDC, where speakers provided their views of the scope of the problem and possible solutions.

On day two, task force members heard from the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, MPH; the Executive in Charge of the Veterans Health Administration Carolyn Clancy, MD; and other experts on the topics of prevention and treatment; mental health and addiction; special populations; education; providers; service, payment, and delivery; and research and innovation. The afternoon session featured more testimony from the public, as well as remarks from Scott Gottlieb, MD, commissioner of the FDA.

In addition, the task force had its first chance to begin brainstorming and goal-setting.

Steinberg spoke in depth about the devastation pain causes to every aspect of the person with pain’s life as well as the great need for ongoing, epidemiological data collection, analysis, and reporting on chronic pain.

To view a full recording of the two-day meeting, click here.