A bill sponsored by Rep. Gregg Amore looks to put pain management power back into the hands of those who are suffering the most.
By Rachel Nunes, Patch Staff | Mar 21, 2019 4:12 pm ET | Updated Mar 21, 2019 4:29 pm ET
The bill was ordered held for further study by a House committee Wednesday night. (Shutterstock)
PROVIDENCE, RI - Claudia Merandi has dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of those with chronic pain. A chronic pain sufferer herself, she started the "Don't Punish Pain" rallies, which make a statement to lawmakers about the need for pain medication to be made available to those with chronic pain outside of federal guidelines. As the opioid crisis rages on, Merandi said those with chronic pain are falling through the cracks, with deadly results.
"Since our last rally in September, we must have had at least 50 suicides," Merandi said, saying that many with chronic pain feel like they have no other alternatives when they can't access pain medication. "Gregg is the only representative in the entire country to step up to the plate."
Merandi is referring to Gregg Amore, the representative from East Providence who has introduced a bill that would exempt people with chronic pain from the national standards for opioid prescriptions. Nicknamed "Claudia's Bill" after Merandi herself, the bill is a beacon of hope for those who suffer from chronic pain across Rhode Island and the country.
"If we can pass this bill in Rhode Island, we'll set a precedent for other states," Merandi said.
The bill came about after Amore, a family friend of Merandi, became aware of her daily struggles and followed her to a series of doctor's appointments.
"The suffering was unimaginable," Merandi said.
Together with Merandi, Amore wrote the bill that would allow doctors to prescribe as much medication as is needed to control chronic pain without being hindered by federal restrictions on prescriptions. The restrictions were put in place to prevent doctors from over-prescribing addicting opioid pain killers in an effort to help curb the ever-growing opioid epidemic.
But Merandi says that these restrictions keep pain medication from people with chronic pain, many of whom need the medications to live a normal life.
"Doctors have become afraid to prescribe them," Merandi said.
The bill defines chronic pain as "pain that is excruciating, constant, incurable and of such severity that it dominates virtually every conscious moment." If passed, it would allow doctors to make decisions of pain prescriptions on a case-by-case basis.
"We want to make sure that our public policy in regard to addressing the opioid crisis does not have the unintended consequence of hurting patients who are trying to manage chronic pain. These patients are not addicts, they are suffering with pain associated with cancer, palliative care, and in many cases, chronic intractable pain. We need to let physicians determine how best to manage their patients' pain," Rep. Amore said in a statement.
The House Health, Education and Welfare Committee heard the bill on Wednesday night. Merandi and others were at the state house to testify in its defense. Ultimately, the committee voted to hold the bill for further study, but she says she still holds out hope that the bill will be passed this year.
"After [Wednesday's] testimony, everyone knows it's a problem. If it doesn't pass this time, it has to eventually," Merandi said. "I'm just glad Gregg is here. This is our only shot."
https://patch.com/rhode-island/cranston ... LeMaNARcZk
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