By Shaina Smith
Now that elections are over, patient advocates like me are waking up and realizing that there is an even larger up-hill battle to face. It is one that will challenge our ability to unite as a chronic pain community, to put aside political differences and see the larger picture: the basic rights of patients to access quality healthcare and treatment options.
How can people living with pain be assured that their rights to receive affordable healthcare, access to life-saving treatment options, and quality attention toward their invisible illness will be secured? There are no guarantees, but there is hope.
My role as Director of State Advocacy & Alliance Development for U.S. Pain Foundation affords me the unique opportunity to be privy to proposed legislation that could impact people with chronic pain and individuals with mental illness. At the federal level, our advocacy team has and continues to track the actions of policy makers, meet with key figures and demand that the patient voice always be considered. As an advocate and mother living with a rare pain condition, I cannot make guarantees when it comes to the fate of our healthcare system and state policies. But I can make a promise.
I promise to not give up my passion toward fellow pain warriors who so desperately need support, understanding, and sound laws that do not limit their treatment options. I promise to work tirelessly, every day, to mobilize men, women, and children living with an invisible illness who wish to become a part of positive change for those living with incurable pain conditions. I promise to fight for you and with you in the trying task of eliminating stigmas about the complex disease of chronic pain.
Your pain condition was and still is validated in my eyes. Your life is worth fighting for. So, when you ask yourself what now? it is my aspiration that your uncertainties are cast in the darkness and overpowered by the light that U.S. Pain’s advocacy team will sustain as we move forward. The pain community is such an eclectic mix of strength, perseverance, and ability that I have no doubt we will put any differences aside to work toward equality for people with pain.
Despite who you voted for, we are all connected and united as a pain community, and we must embrace our differences as we now work diligently together to protect our access to the care we need and deserve. That’s why this morning I’m rolling up my sleeves and re-evaluating my “To-do” list so that I can do what I can to support fellow pain warriors. If you are ready to roll up your sleeves and join our advocacy efforts to secure basic patient rights, I welcome your enthusiasm with open arms. You can visit: www.uspainfoundation.org and fill out an application to become a part of our advocacy family. Let’s do this.
Shaina Smith is Director of State Advocacy & Alliance Development for U.S. Pain Foundation. Diagnosed with various pain conditions, including Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type, Shaina utilizes her Journalism background to mobilize pain patient advocates and engage volunteers to participate in awareness programs.