Montana Chronic Pain Patients—Tell Your Story

Montana Chronic Pain Patients—Tell Your Story

Montana has been called—less than charitably—a pain desert. Chronic pain patients—as in the case in many rural states—have been disproportionately “under treated” due to a crackdown on opioid prescribing fueled by the federal agency (notably the DEA) attention and corresponding statewide enforcement on doctors by the Montana Board of Medical Examiners.

That’s why a meeting in the state capital of Helena this week caught our attention.

Two chronic pain advocates-Rhonda Hedalen and Gary Snook are looking for Montana chronic pain patients to show support at the SUD (Substance Use Disorder) Strategic Taskforce Meeting.

As Hedalen said, “We have been invited to speak this Wednesday. They would like to hear from chronic pain patients and the hardship we are now facing due to the so-called opioid crisis. I think this is a huge step for us. People are starting to listen.”

These two advocates are representing the Montana Don’t Punish Pain Rally—part of a national movement that is trying to make the case for chronic pain patients who are being denied treatment.

Say Hedalen, “You do not have to stay for the entire meeting but it is very important that we need to have people there to show support for the chronic pain patients here in Montana. The panel begins at 11 a.m.”

Snook has been an important voice for Montana chronic pain patients for many years.

He and Hedalen will be joined on the panel by Kristin Page-Nei, the Montana Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society and Cancer Action Network, Inc.

The meeting begins at 10 a.m. (mountain daylight time) at Delta Hotel by Marriott in Helena.

If you attend, please leave your impressions in the commentary section of the National Pain Report. We will follow this story closely.

SUD is a task force of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

Subscribe to our blog via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Authored by: Ed Coghlan

newest oldest
Notify of
Alan Edwards

Addicts or those posing as addicts: usually young and healthy with criminal records in Montana and most other states receive free counseling, semi-opioids and amphetamines, free sterile drug paraphernalia, instant social service assistance, free or semi-free housing, food assistance, halfway house sheltering with cigarettes, alcohol and misused substances provided- and endless entertainment and fast food. Shall I go on?

Chonic and near-death intractable pain patients are now harassed by police at pharmacies. Being undertreated, our mobility will eventually end as mine has. We may not be able to get to the doctor or pharmacy. I am now wheelchair dependent and receiving threatening letters from Medicare.

Maybe healthy criminal addicts should go to the Montana meetings with their unlimited government care and police protection.

NPR should talk to Frank Fisher M.D., Doctor Forest Tennant, Doctor Mark Ibsen and Red Lawhern Phd. NPR is not reporting the true scope of the worst holocaust and case of mass insanity in United States history.

Sick people in suicidal pain are suffering, being mistreated in the extreme, and Federal Government agencies are criminally responsible as are our supposed elected Government masters.

I have abdominal pain that is constant all day and night with spikes in pain since earliest memory, myalgia and neuralgia throughout abdomen and adhesions, possible nerve damage in abdomen, no none cause for the lifelong pain, numerous abdominal surgeries, pancreatitis, osteoarthritis throughout body, osteoporosis,back pain and migraines. The abdominal is so bad sometimes. I am so fed up with dealing with pain doctors. There should be a law against a doctor writing lies in your records. If there are any of you who have not gotten your medical records I advise you to do so because these doctors are writing lies and trying to make us look like a drug abuser. I think all doctor visits should be taped so these lies cannot be written against us. A pain patient has it hard enough without a doctor being so dishonest. I am going to start to make these doctors public who put lies in my records. Everyone who has tortured us with these laws ,regulations and making us look like criminals are going to be held accountable by God some day. How is the damage that has been done to us ever going to be made right? This atrocity has cost us pain patients a lot of distress and costs some their lives. All this is abuse and criminal that has been done to us. The longer I go the madder and more distressed I get. We are put in a box and cornered with no help and no where to turn. This is nothing but sanctioned torture.

I am a chronic pain patient here in Spartanburg,SC and i have been cut off from getting my pain meds. I have been on pain medication for 12 years and now my pain is so bad I rarely have a good day.. People that are in real pain that need these pain medications can’t get them because of what our government calls an “opiod epidemic “,which is a crock of crap. People that abuse opiods will find another drug to abuse and overdose on.. What about these methadone clinics?? People go every morning to get their methadone,fail drug test and still get their medicine. Methadone is more dangerous than the pain medicine,i know first hand people on methadone fall asleep with cigs in their hands and burn everything up,or fall asleep driving and kill someone you love,i don’t get it?? Its not right,why don’t they raid methadone clinics and the so called doctors there?? Doctors are so scared to write scripts for pain medication but so easily put you on methadone or suboxone.. I really pray that someone starts to listen because my pain is real and it keeps me from doing things i would like to do,at least when i had my pain medication,the pain eased up and i could get through the day..!!


Kind of difficult to attend the meeting when we don’t get the notice/invite until the day before!
Next time, PLEASE give us ample time to make arrangements so we can attend and give our very important views.

Ellen Johnson

I hope progress continues to be made on hearing chronic pain patients side; the news still is blaming legitimate prescribing they count how many pills ( opiate pain medicine) and day enough everyone to have 53 A month Nothing to anyone in serious chronic pain I truly feel for parents who say now it’s affected my son yet if you read whole story their son is also on cocaine not legal The latest scare is talk of not letting Medicare pay for pain specialists and yet the pain specialists are who CDC says should manage chronic pain no family medicine will do it anymore yet is you have a disabling chronic illness you are on Medicare I can’t pay out of pocket for pain doctor then if he/she is not on plan plan will deny medicine I don’t like being sick I would give anything to work drive run be healthy I did nothing to ask for this but I deserve compassion we all do and paid for treatment You can’t keep saying no and just watch the utube video of all young faces of chronic pain patients who committed suicide because pain medicine taken away or so decreased it does not help. I hope positive comes out Montana it will affect us all.

Terry Jarrell

I am from oh and am a 66yr old man I had been on med for 8 yr and was having a OK quality of life when the CDC came down on all Dr. In are state now I can bearly get around it is all most impossible to keep my house clean and cook for my self we need help in oh. Too let’s see if we can all get together and help each orther

g Sharon Jones

As a pain patient myself I know only too well how those of us who need & use our pain meds as prescribed are being singled out & treated as tho we are criminals.

I have watched my brother in law, a Navy veteran, loose all quality of life. He spends his day in a chair or sleeping because after 25yrs of being treated for pain with opioids, after under going many surgeries & alternative treatments that failed & in two cases made his pain worse (which he still has) the government has seen fit to punish him by taking away the one treatment that allowed him some quality of life…opioid medication.

I’ve watched my own husband slowly declining as his dosage is dropped month by month.

I’m facing the same process. It’s not like all three of us did not go thru a lengthy process of different treatments (in my case 10yrs of trial & error) before our Dr’s (none of us have the same Dr) finally tried an opioid medication which worked.

I think what stinks the most about all of this is there is already a system in place at all pharmacies that could be easily utilized to track the misuse & over prescribing of pain medication.

It’s no wonder people are going to the streets & trying drugs like heroin.

I’ve also noticed that no matter what kills a person if they took any type of opioid medication then “opioid overdose” is listed as the cause of death.

What is being done to those of us (and our doctors) who use opioid medications as prescribed is a form of tyranny by our government who should have no place in our healthcare at least not to the degree I have personally faced & witnessed.


g Sharon Jones

Jean Bergquist

I am chronic due to diabetes nurophty corpel turnel degenerate disk disease trigger finger. If I don’t have my pain meds I could not get out of bed there would no use pain is so bad.
I agree it should be watched so many die from pills street drugs . It makes me so upset that people on drugs have caused such a problem for true people in pain it’s unfair we have to suffer because of people abusing pain medication they can’t face life without getting high. You make life what it is I would give anything to never have to take pain meds insulin all these other meds I am stuck with but unfortunately my dad had all this and I inherited it.
If someone could give me a pill to reverse all this where I do not have to put a med in my body I would be more than happy I want my body back I do not want to have pain anymore no more high sugars.
I pray that someone can figure something out but to be honest I fill druggers will do what ever they got to do to get high sad part of life.


I am a chronic pain patient from NJ.
We need more people like you two.

If i didn’t have my meds i would not be able to work,sleep,walk nor stand.
I never abused my meds ever!!

The pain is never 100% gone but at least with my meds i can live half a normal life.
They need to invent a suit that doctors can put on and fell the pain we are in.
I know in my my case the doctor would not have that suit on for more than
one minute.
Some days the pain puts me to tears.
The thought of being with out my meds is scary and it make me mad.

God bless you two.

Lauren Gregor

I noticed no one said what type of pain they had. I had spine fusion 3 times due to a disability but my doctor will not give me anything for pain and honestly I would rather not have pain meds.
They have awful side effects and you are so tired you can’t move and the key to taking care of your self is to try and move.
My skull is fused to my first vertabra so my head doesn’t move at all and it is uncomfortable but I have tricks to get me through the day.
Sometimes I do wish I had the meds but in the past they really put me in a bad place.
I can’t say you should not be comfortable but everyone has a certain amount of pain but to take opiates does not seem like the answer.
I was lucky they found out my problem but it took them a long time to do so and as I said I was told not to rely on drugs even after surgery so I didn’t.
I had to go to physical therapy and by the end of 6 months after surgery I was doing better though the fusion in my upper spine was only done so I wouldn’t be paralyzed.

I injured my back on the job, March 28, 1996, the day my whole life changed, not for the good, I have had 3 lumbar laminectomy procedures and 1 fusion, they went through my abdomen, I have had over 100 blocks, my pain is so severe right now, I can barely do daily living activities.
I was the operating room supervisor of the 2nd largest OR in Bham. Al. I was raising 2 children on my own, my 1st surgery was the following December, after that, my entire life changed and so did my children’s and family, I have been with 3 pain specialist since then, I almost died 8 yrs ago, as a result of my medication dosage being too high, no I was not abusing my medication, I finally had to quit working in May of 1998, my personal life also was severely damaged and my children’s. I am now enduring severe debilitating pain, almost to the point of losing my personal independence, because my specialist has reduced my medication, in order to stay in line with new dosing guidelines, I am not ready to give up me independence at age 67, I have always been very independent, but this unfortunately, is headed to a less desirable method, please help those of us who suffer everyday, I am an RN, so I know all the cliches of medical terminology, help those of us being punished as a result, of those who abuse or misuse those medications that make day to day activities less painful and challenging.
Cassandra C Antonio
Ashland AL

Pamela Garcia

My son drove me through Montana last month. What a beautiful state. I have a progressive unstable cervical spine, and one fusion didn’t help the pain. I also am bone on bone in my low back. More surgery is very risky and likely won’t help the pain.

I’ve dealt with the difficulty of having to go to the doctor every two weeks for opiod pain meds, and I can’t imagine the difficulty some folks in Montana must have with chronic pain due to the long drives many must have to go get pain meds, and then be treated like a criminal.

I discovered a plant, called Kratom, that works just as good, if not better than the prescription opiods for pain. Unfortunately, the DEA and FDA are trying to make Kratom illegal, and has used a few examples of drug abusers who mix with other drugs and grossly overdo quantities as the reason to try to make it illegal. Pharmaceutical companies also don’t like it as they lose business. Many orders of magnitude of newfangled pharmaceutical drugs for chronic pain, chronic diseases caused by modern lifestyle and bad eating habits have injured and killed patients more than Kratom and prescription opioids taken responsponsibly.

Look up Kratom on MSKCC (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center) about herbs website, and AKA (American Kratom Association).

I hope your meeting has an impact, but it’s nice to have an alternative without the humilation of a do good pain doctor “mindlessly” following rules made by people who don’t appear to really understand or care what is going on with individual people.

Chronic arthritis in my hip and knee

Kenneth baize

I live in Kentucky I have had a neck infusion worked as a Mason for 26 years was told my knees are shot but I continue to be denied pain management. I have never been arrested not even a speeding ticket but yet I’m looked at like a criminal because I need something for pain. I contemplate suicide quite often to end my suffering all the while watching the needle exchange programs for the heroin atticks.D.E.A. what do you want from us our lives?

I WISH all the best to my family in chronic pain. I have had FIBROMYALGIA since June 30th, 1980. I didn’t get correctly diagnosed until 1996, or 1997. Now I have the entire ARTHRITIS FAMILY, Tares, bulging discs, fluid and rheumatoid arthritis in low back. I’M always in pain. I would love to know what a moment of no pain feels like. Then we have LIFE beating you down, IT’S SO hard sometimes, but we don’t give up. We KEEP praying and believing in the GOD’ WE TRUST. With every breath. Managing pain meds is simple, just look at our medical records, if there is no abuse, don’t take away OUR meds or decrease THEM because someone else ABUSED them. Then look at what you are prescribing us, 1 pain med is all I’m giving, that’s it. And that has been cut down per month. So I’m asking, take a close look at your patients records, if there is “NO ABUSE”, don’t make us SUFFER more than we already are. I LOVE YOU ALL IN’ CHRIST’. ALWAYS PRAYING. IN’ JESUS’ NAME’ AMEN’ , AMEN’ , AMEN’ 👑👑🕊🦋. 8/21/2019.

Kim Buchholtz

WITHOUT PAIN MEDICATIONS ITS HELL I can’t take CARE of MYSELF .Cry AND SUFFER every day in the WORST PAIN. I live alone. I lost my husband in bad accident. HE was doing everything he COULD to help me .But the only ones that can HELP us turned their backs on us .

Been without pain treatment since Mar. 2019. My pain medicine was taken from me too and I live in Pennsylvania. I saw a new pain doctor in July who did nothing but want to look in my records. I found out today that she wrote terrible things about me. I had requested to have my “care” turned over to another doctor in the same office and I saw him today. He said he was unable to offer me any interventional therapies. Said there was nothing he could do for me. Said I needed pain medication and then recommended marijuana. Gave me phone numbers for both offices that give oipiods and marijuana. Neither of these are covered by insurance and the one who is allowed to sign you up for marijuana costs $200 for an office visit and then another $50 to the state to register you for the marijuana card. Then you take the card to the pharmacy and pay for the marijuana. I am on a limited income and this not feasible for me, though I may save the money up to get the card before it is outlawed too.I left the office with NO pain control because they say they cannot help me. It is crazy because I read where you are considered eligible for opioids if you cannot be helped through other interventional therapies. All big lies and we just continue to abused. One nurse asked me if my family physician ever recommended John Hopkins Hospital. Again no insurance coverage because it is out of state. May try to get an exception so I can be seen. I just think “Good luck on that one!” I just ask that somebody do something to help us in the state of Pennsylvania. I am in a foul mood tonight as I sit and suffer. I wonder how long it will be before they sit us pain patients up in that shooting gallery for the addicts to practice on, it could be the states solution to the pain patient problem. Nothing would surprise me anymore because I am now pessimistic and out of solutions. Asking will the insanity ever end? My appologies to all addicts who would not participate in the shooting gallery.


It’s a sad commentary on the state of affairs and priorities of government when older Americans living with serious long term pain due to medical conditions, who have used medication responsibly over a period of years, are arbitrarily abandoned or cut off. The heavy hand of the DEA/CDC/FDA has terrified many healthcare providers into doing harm to patients.

At the same time heroin addicts are offered publicly-funded safe injection sites. Addicts should be able to access appropriate treatment, but SO SHOULD WE. A knee-jerk reaction to the “opioid crisis” has created legions of collateral damage-us. Why are older people with medical issues being punished for a problem we had a minuscule, if any, role in creating?

Andrea Giles

What day is the meeting? I see the time mentioned in the article, but not the date. I’m from Wyoming, but was seeing a Pain Management Physician In Billings, MT. for 6 years and with the release of the 2016 CDC “guidelines “ was fired from the practice, no reason given, had not ever violated my pain contract and was cut off cold-turkey from a dose of 120MME/day. If I haven’t already missed it, would I qualify to go?

noticed that first it started w/ people who had Insurance losing their insurance by Obama Administration. that leaves millions of people w/o healh insurance that once had insurance. Then began on the opiate prescription medication & it still continues w/ Trump. Dems are pushing for Medicare for all & allowing illegals to have Medicare / Medicaid just by arriving into the USA. Obama ministration wrote a law that Medicare / Medicaid patience not allowing & cutting back on MRI, CT scans due to cost. Trump wants to activate the law that has never been activated. Prescription opiates now diminished / nonexistent. CBD oil / marijuana for people to purchase for themselves for medical treatment an extremely high cost making it unavailable to all. Not available in all states . Medicare payments have been lowered. do you see how much money is being saved by blacklisting opiate prescriptions, not allowing Medicare patients to have CT scans / MRIS, hospitals are turning away chronic pain patients no longer allowing them to have treatment for uncontrolled pain. the tax money that’s made off of marijuana. A lot less Health Care, more self care BC medical treatment not being allowed. What’s next?


Do you have to live in Montana to attend and tell your story?


Jeanie fetterman, I so get what your experiencing. Please feel free to contact me at You are in my prayers . Don’t give up. One way or another we can make a difference. Janice


It’s so hard for most pain patients to just feed themselves and get laundry done, and shower once in awhile and get to medical appts.

It’s such an enormous “ask” to ask them to show up at a rally, even though the rally is for their benefit. For my benefit.

Especially for people on their own, as Jeannie Fetterman posted below.

Jeannie, I am so close to being you, and I feel for you, so very much.

I’m mostly on my own, but not completely. But I could be in your situation easily. And it’s terrifying.

My pain caused my long term relationship to end, but we are still friends, and he helps me when I need it. B/c we live almost next door to each other, when he does errands, esp grocery shopping, he picks things up for me. He also helps me in my condo with so many things; not just handyman type things, but anything that takes any physical effort, like bending down to connect a new cable box. He puts gas in my car and checks my tire pressure. Without him, I dont’ see how I could stay out of a facility. So, if he ever gets sick or moves or gets a new GF who doesn’t approve of him helping me, then I’m totally on my own. No family to help and my few friends have their own problems.

So, back to attending a rally — I just can’t imagine going. At a minimum, I’d need to be driven, and I’d need to be able to recline with a heating pad on my belly — which is how I spend most of my life. And that’s on a good day where my pelvic pain syndrome is the only thing bothering me. The pelvic pain is the main reason why I’m on disability, but I also have lots of other medical problems; fibro and old injuries that never healed, and new problems which at times have been disabling on their own.

We are such a weak population. It’s so hard to advocate for ourselves. So, infinite thanks to those who advocate on our behalf.


Renee Beyers

I live in upper Michigan(in the U.P.) and am 61 yrs. old and had been on opiates thru my Dr. for 20 yrs. and my Dr. retired a year ago last June. Now I’ve tried to get into at least 15 regular doctors and have been turned down. They see you’ve been on opiates for chronic pain and want no part of it. I’ve spent many hours crying because I’ve been turned down again. Even the 3 pain clinics I’ve went to have not given me anything but suggestions of ankle fusion and back surgeries and steroid injections . The last pain dr. did an mri and I thought well now you see I’m not just saying I’m in chronic pain but still nothing at all. I have tried everything there is thru the past 30 yrs. and the opiates was the only thing that gave me quality of life and let me go back to work for over a decade. I have a 40 year old handicapped daughter I care for too and if it wasn’t for her I’d have committed suicide by now. I see why so many are committing suicide. Something is really wrong with this picture. Maybe I need to move to another state but I don’t know if there are any that can help us. Any suggestions anyone.

Dee Dee

My husband and I are thinking of relocating to Montana, but now, I am terrified. I will not live long if I don’t have my pain meds and it is NOT because I am addicted, I am dependent on this medication to live a relatively useful life; without them I would not be able to get out of bed. I want to live, I take care of my body as best I can, I only eat organic food and do not consume products that have been shown to cause inflammatory response within the body which causes pain. I have taken every single medication and supplements the doctors have thrown at me only to have such severe side affects that were worse than my infliction, that I chose to not take them. I am grateful to have a doctor to prescribe my pain meds because I would not be able to have any sense of a life with out them. Living in so much pain for so many people who are not receiving the care they need is neglectful and harmful to say the least. What happened to the hippocratic oath - first do no harm? Taking away peoples only means of functioning is harmful - mentally, physically, and emotionally. Please listen to us, the addiction problem is not with chronic pain patients. It is NOT! Please, Please, Please, stop torturing us by taking away our only means of surviving and living with our conditions. We shouldn’t have to live in fear on top of all that we suffer from, because you’ve decided we’re going to become addicted. Why are you not allowing doctors to evaluate all of us, each, individually on a case by case basis? I have been functioning as best I can for the last 10 years being prescribed opiates, I have never been to the hospital because of an accidental overdose. I am a responsible chronic pain patient and I’m positive that the vast majority of chronic pain patients are responsible too. How about focusing on educating new chronic pain patients on the dangers of opiates and keep prescribing opiates to those of us who have shown to be responsible.

Louis Ogden

Gary, best of luck to you and your fellow Montanans (Montanians) - folks from Montana!

Rosalind Rivera



Montana is lucky..Colorado is just as ironic you can buy all the alcohol, pot,and now mushrooms you want but Dr’s refuse to give you a medical drug.

jeanie fetterman

Thank you for trying to make a difference. I’m from PA and had my pain meds ( & my benzodiazepines that I was on for 38 years) taken from me. I am barely able to physically take care of myself. I’m physically and emotionally exhausted and rarely go out of the house anymore. It’s all I can do to get from one room to another in my own home. I live alone and am alone with no one to help me. Everyday I wake up I’m disappointed I’m still here. My brain is so overtaken by pain ( I have no impetus to describe my afflictions ) because of the severity of the degree of pain and depression that pain brings with it. My prayers are with you. I wish I could help you carry the flag for those of us who have been targeted. Just this morning I saw where now they are opening “shooting galleries” for heroin addicts. Talk about salt to the wound. Again, thank you and my prayers.

Brett H

The dont punish pain rallies are great but I would liken the dessert to Government abandonment. I am glad tmy father passed away when he did from a heart attack and cancer in Billings, Montana while under hospice care there. I woud find it hard to support policies where stage 4 cancer victims suffer because someone says we don’t want you to become addicted. That is the whole show isnt it. Because addicts will become addicted to any substance regardless. Go read up on it in Reddit. Whole forums full of people just shoving anything into their bodies to get high. The Government looks strong on addiction but they arent doing anything other than this.