Behavioral Health Care Needed in Plan to Treat Chronic Pain

By Paul R. Pace

More than half of Americans live with chronic or recurrent pain. Forty percent of Americans say pain interferes with their mood, sleep, ability to work and enjoy their lives.

These statistics come from Denise Giambalvo, vice president of the Midwest Business Group on Health. She was among the panelists for the symposium "Behavioral Health as Part of Comprehensive Pain Care and Payment Design for People with Pain".

The Alliance to Advance Comprehensive Integrative Pain Management hosted the event in partnership with the American Psychological Association. NASW, an AACIPM partner, was a symposium sponsor.

The program examined behavioral health as part of a comprehensive approach to pain management from the perspectives of providers, people with pain, payors and purchasers of health care.

Panelists included Yvette Colón, PhD, ACSW, LMSW, a longtime NASW member and associate professor at Eastern Michigan University School of Social Work.

Much work has been done in the last 20 years to support effective pain management, but the current climate toward improving care for people with chronic pain in the U.S. continues to be complicated, Colón said.

Part of the problem is care is fragmented.

“The people I work with often do not know social workers can help with pain or that they are trained in interventions that can address the difficulties they have with pain,” Colón told attendees.

Insurance coverage, and where to find help and training for caregivers remains inconsistent among the professions, she said. As a Michigan resident, she noted the state requires continuing education for social work licensure.

“In all my social work training, I did not have any content on pain management, including in my death and dying elective,” she said.

“There’s an important opportunity we can all take to promote the continuing education of social workers and other professions.”

Colón noted it’s vital to think about the intersection of mental health, chronic pain and opioid use.

View a recording of the symposium and more information at