NASW Endorses National Report Advocating for Care of Chronic Pain

Recommendations Include Social Work Training and Mental Health Parity

In November 2009, a panel of experts released a report calling for increased interdisciplinary training on pain care and other systemic reforms to improve treatment of chronic pain throughout the United States. The panel was convened by the Mayday Fund, a family foundation dedicated to reducing human suffering caused by pain.

NASW joined 30 national organizations in endorsing the report, A Call to Revolutionize Chronic Pain Care in America: An Opportunity in Health Care Reform. The report describes chronic pain—that is, pain lasting more than six months—as “a tragically overlooked public health problem” that is frequently underaddressed, including in the current health care reform debate. Chronic pain, the report asserts, leading not only to decreased quality of life but also to unnecessary health care costs. Defining pain as a chronic illness, the report examines the physical, social, and psychological effects of untreated pain. Moreover, the report emphasizes that both adults and children experience chronic pain and highlights disparities in competent pain care related to race, ethnicity, gender, age, and class.

The report calls for multiple measures to improve pain care, including

  1. Universal access to primary medical providers who are competent in pain management;
  2. Increased access to specialists in pain medicine;
  3. Expanded funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for training social workers and other health and mental health professionals in pain assessment and management;
  4. Reimbursement reforms, including parity for mental health services, to promote interdisciplinary treatment of pain;
  5. Increased federal funding for research addressing pain management;
  6. Elimination of disparities in access to pain care; and
  7. Increased consumer education about pain management.

The Mayday Fund Report can be downloaded from their website.

Related Resources

  • Use the NASW Standards for Social Work Practice in Palliative and End of Life Care. {}
  • Learn about the distinctions between addiction, physical dependence, and tolerance of prescription pain medications. {}
  • Listen to, or read transcripts of, Specialty Practice Section teleconferences addressing pain management:
    • Pain: An Introduction and an Opportunity for Social Work Involvement (Terry Altilio, LCSW){}
    • Treating the Psychosocial Aspects of Pain Management (Shirley Otis-Green, ACSW){}
  • Read the Specialty Practice Section article, Pain: The Fifth Vital Sign. {}
  • NASW’s consumer Web site, HelpStartsHere offers consumer-friendly information about pain management.