A California State Pain Policy May Be in the Works

A California State Pain Policy May Be in the Works

A meeting in California’s state capitol this month produced by one of the state’s leading pain advocates will result in the introduction of legislation later this year that will create a California State Pain Policy.

And the legislation promises to be ambitious.

“We are very pleased with the meeting which attracted state legislators, legislative and Department of Public Health staffers, physicians and pain patients,” said Cynthia Toussaint, founder of For Grace –which is dedicated to promoting care and wellness for women in chronic pain.

Like most states, public health officials were not as aware of the chronic pain issue as, well, they should be. Depending on which estimate which you believe, California has between 6 and 12 million of its 40 million residents who suffer chronic pain.

“When we talked with state officials about chronic pain policy, they talked about opioid legislation. We explained that chronic pain is about much more than just opioids,” she said.

What can do we to improve pain care here in California?

“First of all, we cannot allow people to be denied medication they need to live their lives,” Toussaint declared.

And there’s more.

Toussaint said her group is working with legislators to draft a bill that will essentially become the California Pain Policy—one which can become a blueprint for other states.

“We are aiming for a comprehensive, integrated approach to the treatment of chronic pain,” said Toussaint who has CRPS. “I think we were able to educate our audience of policy makers and thought leaders that persistent pain is misunderstood, patients have to endure a bias of providers, family and co-workers about their illness and that your life—my life—is just not the same.”

The legislation will include four core elements:

It calls for the creation of a Center for the Improvement of Chronic Pain Research, Management and Prevention, an encouragement to develop Centers of Excellence in California hospitals in treating chronic pain, a dramatic increase in health provider education, expanded coverage of alternative therapies, particularly in Medi-Cal and Workers Compensation and improved public health education campaigns.

If this sounds familiar, it should—these are the basic tenets of the National Pain Strategy which was developed with great fanfare in 2016 but has suffered for the lack of implementation since.

“California has been a leader in so many areas—what happens here can often influence policy across the country. It’s well past time that we can lead in the treatment of chronic pain,” said Toussaint.

The event was captured via a webcast. We invite you to watch here.

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

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Edwina Nearing

If only all those who are trying to ban opioids would be afflicted with the sort of pain that responds only to opioids, then we’d see the quality of mercy become unstrained . . .


I’ll believe it when I see it. I have contacted the offices of Health Committee chairs in the Assembly and the Senate. Also, Sen. Mike McGuire who wrote that Senate Concurrent Resolution SCR 115. I’ve sent them (along with much other information) the various clarifications from the CDC, FDA, HHS and links to the AMA views and Human Rights Watch. They have shown zero interest in any of those materials. They have basically told me,”Well, what do want US to do about it??” Although the Calif. Med. Board apparently replies to queries within 24 hours, I’ve got NO response after 3 emails with the same info. I know I have no expertise other than having lived decades w my CPP partner but the views of federal and other agencies should be worthy of consideration by CA legislative representatives and their staffers. They all seem to be infected with a toxic kind of “group think” which renders them immune to reason and compassion.


Wa. only allows a 7 day supply for a revision on a failed Total Knee Replacement joint . You need pain medication to get you thur the 6 weeks of Pt. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=141505570392711&id=100035998064854
13 kbee sugeries yiu need at least 4 servings pain medication every 6 hours


As Richard A Lawhern PhD writes…” We need help now!”

Thank you Ed.I went on to the link to watch the webcast and was pleased with it all. At least thos professionals are interested. And e ereryone should have Senator like the one who spoke…she seems to get it!
Cynthia’s description of life in pain was touching, truthful and poignant in representing her life as well as ours.
There was a woman who asked questions, toward the end, in regard to our opioids. She was clearly looking for an answer. Unfortunately this symposium was not fit to fix nor answer that issue but to try to find other solutions for our community. I felt her rage and frustration though. It’s all so complicated.
Great job Cynthia and John…your best one yet!

I share the concerns expressed by others in this comment thread. Our problem is now, not five years down the road. The immediacy of this problem is my motivation for proposing model legislation to Senators and Representatives, that would establish AMA House of Delegates Resolution 235 as national policy for all US healthcare and law enforcement Agencies. The resolution reads in part:

…No entity should use MME (morphine milligram equivalents) thresholds as anything more than guidance, and physicians should not be subject to professional discipline, loss of board certification, loss of clinical privileges, criminal prosecution, civil liability, or other penalties or practice limitations solely for prescribing opioids at a quantitative level above the MME thresholds found in the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids.”

For those interested in face to face lobbying of legislators at Federal or State level, a 15 minute scripted desktop briefing is available, titled “A Nation In Pain Appeals to Our Legislators:Stop the Anti-Opioid Madness!” Feel free to write me at lawhern@hotmail.com to request a copy.


Great article .awesome for California .. Stuck in Chicago

Oh, good! Another policy. Sorry, but we need more than policies… yesterday. People are hurting now.

George Douglass

I am a stage 4 Cancer patient and I have seen friends I know that have committed suicide because of the torture these morons that legislate these laws that put our lives at stake. If they don’t do something about this hysteria caused by Chinese Fentanyl coming into our country they are gonna have 12 million less people in California because the Cartels don’t ask for any ID or insurance cards. They take cash and they don’t care who dies in the mean time.

Catherine Sandell

The biggest pebble in the cog is illegal drugs coming into America! So many people are on narcotics, not for legitimate pain, but because they are addicted to other substances (gotten off street venders) and have an addiction! Then they make up stories to gain access through the doctors. There has to be a legitimate way to measure pain through a device or even dogs that can tell if a person is in real pain! I am praying for a solution!


This is wonderful and hopeful news.

Roy Starling

This is the first better news in awhile. My pain management doctor just told me that SoCal was going to reduce pain meds to 60Mg/ Morphine equivalent. Needless to say i have very depressed and last week my wife has also has been on pain meds for her knee’s 30mg a day. She needs surgery but we can not afford it anyway she had a infected tooth and had it extracted the doctor gave her codeine with tylenol for the extra pain 7 days worth and the pharmacist refused to fill saying her other meds were enough and that the doctor must not know she was other meds. I tried to tell him he was aware. the more we talk i could tell it was about his feelings and not about concern for her. I mean when did they become so powerful that they know more than a doctor? and if you push the issue you must be a drug seeker!!!
and go luck getting your next refill…

Debbie Nickels Heck, MD

It will be interesting to see if their policies really allow pain patients to receive the individualized care they need. If they do, will other states realize their states need to do the same OR will they view it as “another wacko thing CA is doing”? My WORST FEAR would be they’d get it CORRECT but OTHER STATES would find it “too radical to endorse themselves”. Let’s hope CA does it well and other states see the value and emulate it.

Wendy Paley

Thank you so much, Cynthia, for all the work you have done and continue to do to help chronic pain patients, despite your own debilitating chronic pain!

Rosalind Rivera

As a chronic an intractable pain victim living in California, I say that it’s about time. I just read this article while waiting to be called for my appointment with Dr Joe Park, my pain management doctor. His hands are tied due to the current unfair and cruel statues that exist at this time not only in California but in every other state. He sees and knows my suffering and I know that he is a compassionate and very intelligent man. He’s a wonderful doctor and in fact my favorite among my other doctors. On my travel this morning, I became violently ill and was forced to be a disliked and repulsive site to all other motorists. When will this vicious and cowardly attitude towards pain victims merely existing and not living as I am?

Hopefully this will be a breakthrough for those in pain. Decriminalizing pain & putting the reality of pain in front of a phony prescription opioid crisis & recognizing that people in pain need these mess is a good thing. Seems like most of the politicians are ignorant of what is really going on when it comes to prescription opioids. Problem is, getting them to think or even consider that people in pain actually benefit from opiods & are not all just addicts.

Our media has done a great deal of damage to far too many people. Hopefully, CA can help change that. But I won’t hold my breath.

Debbie M

Yes! I live in Mohave County, Arizona, and it’s been a nightmare since the CDC put out the guidelines. CPP jump through hoops every month, Little puppets on strings, and those of us who are fortunate enough to be prescribed any medicine at all have been hanging on waiting for this nightmare to end. Our doctors just say the same old story every month, they don’t care at all. They now push injections, more money for them, complaining doesn’t help they just look at you with that blank stare, no comment, no reassurance, their hands are tied, we aren’t worth the risk of losing their license. Even though the CDC FINALLY issued another letter stating ( oops! Our previous letter was not supposed to be enforced into law) BS!!! All of the alphabet agencies knew exactly what they were doing to us !!!! everything remains the same it doesn’t make any difference to anyone, nobody is making any changes to help us, it doesn’t matter how much pain we are in, Or any new diagnosis we may have, nothing ever changes. So we pray, we continue to hang on, and hope that we will still be here when our human rights have been returned. The dignity and respect we deserve, many of them should burn in hell for what they have been doing to our military veterans and our cancer patients, God be with us all!!!


Debi, I doubt this has much to do with opioids, but is more about alternatives to pain

Now that sounds really promising! Let’s hope that this idea can rub off on some of the other states, like Nevada. I’ve never seen a tighter state when it comes to pain meds. You have to pretty much be dying or get really lucky with whatever doctor is on ER duty.