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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Chronic Pain Patients Propose Policy Changes

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services

A group of pain patients testifying before state lawmakers Friday says Montana has become a hostile place for people who suffer from chronic pain.

Casey Brock, a disabled vet from Glendive, and other chronic pain patients, will propose a Montana Pain Patients’ Bill of Rights before the Health and Human Services Interim Committee.

He says Montana’s current laws about pain management and drug prescribing fail to take care of people in need.

“I believe that Montana needs a drastic overhaul," Brock says. "Montana is still stuck in the dark ages.”

He says policies of Montana’s Department of Justice aiming to crack down on prescription opioid drug addiction are leaving some pain patients without the medicine they need.

“So now we have doctors who won’t even prescribe opioids in this state to even help with pain management because they are afraid they are going to get shut down or go to jail,” Brock says. 

Last fall, Dr. Chris Christensen of Florence was charged with two counts negligent homicide and hundred of counts of illegal distribution of drugs. A few weeks after that, Dr. Mark Ibsen from Helena closed his practice when prosecutors alleged he was negligent in his prescriptions.

Helena Democratic Senator Mary Caferro is vice chair of the Health and Human Services committee.

“They are two separate issues," Caferro says, "You have drug addiction and you have people who need the medicine for their pain management. Those are two separate issues. ”

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed what is being called the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. Montana’s Senator Jon Tester released a statement supporting that Act.

“Drug addiction is plaguing our families and communities, and taking a toll on our society,” he said.

During his presentation on Friday, Casey Brock says he wants to remind lawmakers that while there are people who suffer with addiction, there are others who suffer with pain.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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