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Pain management without opioids: Rhode Island has a model that works



Former Rhode Island Department of Health Director Dr Michael Fine addressed the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council Wednesday afternoon on the need for multidisciplinary, non-narcotic chronic pain treatment centers as an alternative to opioids.

The Council’s invitation to Dr Fine came shortly after Healthcare Revolt, a grass roots healthcare organization, delivered 80 signed letters advocating for effective, non-narcotic chronic pain treatment centers – much like the cutting edge but little known treatment program available to injured workers at the Arrigan Rehabilitation Center.

For the last four years the Arrigan Center has offered a chronic pain treatment program capable of providing pain management with more than a prescription pad. Patients are referred to a variety of specialists including chiropractors, massage therapists, addiction therapists or acupuncturists.

While it is an effective way to manage pain without the risk of addiction, the first step is making people aware they exist. “We need to publicize the Arrigan center and inform patients and care providers of the services it offers,” said Dr Fine. “There’s nothing like it in Rhode Island. It’s clear that the Arrigan center can be the leader of change within the state.”

The next challenge is to make these programs accessible to everyone. “’Every single day I see patients that are desperate and I have nothing to offer them,” said Nurse Manager Lucy Throckmorton to the council. Her own experience with chronic pain demonstrates the deep limitations of the current healthcare system, “I am a rich, white, educated women with a lot of resources… and I was ready to join a cult. We need to do something.”

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That something, Dr Fine believes, begins at the Arrigan Center. In his concluding remarks Dr. Fine stated, “We are very grateful to the Council for a robust discussion. It’s clear that the Arrigan Center can be the model and leader for the ethical treatment of chronic pain for all Rhode Islanders.”

Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council attendees included Scott Jensen, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training; Chief Judge Robert Ferrieri of the Rhode Island Worker’s Compensation Court; and George Nee, Chair of the Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council.