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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Chronic Pain Patients Lobby For 'Bill Of Rights'

Hearing room at the Montana Capitol.
William Marcus
Montana Public Radio

  Today state lawmakers heard from chronic pain patients who want to reform Montana’s policy regarding access to pain medications like opioids.

Casey Brock from Glendive and Terri Anderson from Hamilton call the reform ‘The Montana Pain Patients’ Bill of Rights."

“A. The state has a right and duty to control the illegal use of opioids,” Brock says. “B. Opioids can be an acceptable treatment for patients with chronic or intractable pain who have not received relief from any other means or treatment.”

“Uncontrolled pain becomes a mental health issue,” Anderson told lawmakers.

Committee member Representative Albert Olszewski, an orthopedic surgeon from Kalispell, challenged the presenters about allowing more access to drugs.

“We are concerned about a percentage of patients who,  quote, 'crack’ prescriptions, and they abuse and they divert and they sell,” Olszewski said. “Do you have a good response to that worry and concern? Because it does happen.”

“We acknowledge that that is a problem,” Anderson replied.

The proposal of a "Pain Patients’ Bill of Rights" comes as national concern grows over opioid abuse and addiction. Information about the Montana Department of Justice and medical association efforts to combat that issue can be found at

Pain patients say people living in chronic pain need a law that protects them. They say the fear created by what some call an epidemic of prescription opioid painkiller abuse is making it impossible for them to get the drugs they need.

“Doctor after doctor turned me down. Because part my care includes pain management,” said Judith Notchick.

“We as physicians are terrified that we are going to go to prison or lose our license over prescribing pain pills to patients,” said Doctor Mark Ibsen. “And it’s like turning the light on in the kitchen and seeing the cockroaches have fled. There is no one willing to prescribe opioids to patients they don’t know, who they don’t trust.”

“It is inhumane for us to be treated like this,” said Katie Lamport. “We are treated like addicts.”

“I live with a man who deals with chronic pain on a daily basis,” said an emotional Marley Hanson. “We are young. I’m 31. He is 34. We have small children. He needs to be a father. He needs to be a husband. The one thing that has given him that relief are opioids. Without that I don’t know what we would do.”

Doctor Marc Mentel is an executive member of the Montana Medical Association. He chairs an association committee on prescription drug abuse.

“Right now the exact means and ability to know what is the best way to manage chronic pain, what are the tools available, what is out there, we are still developing the science,” Dr. Mentel said.

“My fear is that if legislation gets ahead of the science we might actually do more harm. A "Pain Patients’ Bill of Rights" - although I agree with everything that is on there, and what is going on there, I agree wholeheartedly - it's been my oath as a physician to treat everyone as if I would want to be treated myself. I’m just fearful that a bill of rights or some mandates for physicians to practice a certain way could get the legislation ahead of the science.”


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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