Sally Balsamo

Alliance for the Treatment of Intractable Pain

October 10, 2017

Contact Your State and Federal Legislators

  • While we’ve had success in reaching out to federal legislators (Senators, Congresspeople), state legislators may also be a better avenue for getting our voices heard. In addition, your local government (mayors, city councils) also present a great opportunity to expand awareness.
  • You can find your Federal and State legislators here:
  • Many legislators have online request forms to ask for meetings or to expressing views. Use these, but always follow up with a telephone call asking if your information has been received.
  • Calling your elected officials may be the best way to gain an opportunity to discuss our concerns.

What to say – Initial Contact

  • During your first conversation with your elected official’s office, it is unlikely someone will be able to speak with you then and there.
  • Start the conversation by giving your name and stating that you are a constituent of Senator/Congressperson X.
  • Ask for the name and contact information for the person on Senator/Congressperson X’s staff who handles public health issues. If they have none, then ask for the name of the Chief of Staff.
  • Once you’ve been given this information, ask how to schedule a meeting or conference call with that individual.
  • If you are asked for more information, simply state that you represent a group of individuals with chronic pain and you would like to speak to Mr/Ms X regarding issues that impact the chronic pain community.

Sample script:  “Hello, my name is Y and I am a constituent of Senator/Congressperson X.  I’d like some information regarding who on the Senator/Congressperson’s staff that manages public health issues.”

If no one is assigned, then, “Well, could I please have the name of Senator/Congressperson’s Chief Of Staff.”

Once given this information: “Thank you.  Can you tell me how I can schedule a meeting or conference call with Mr./Ms. Z?

The Meeting/Conference Call

  • If you are having a conference call, forward any documents you plan to review in advance. The same day is a good time to do so – the information won’t get lost in the email shuffle and it lessens the chance that your contact will read through the information before your call
  • Several documents are available to you through slack. These include Red Lawhern’s point paper, a summary document or Red’s paper that includes highlights for discussion and the list of individuals who have taken their lives due to new opioid prescribing policies.  If you would like a more detailed script to use, please let us know.
  • Peruse the Alliance workspace on slack for other documents that members have used in their meetings that may be helpful.
  • It’s hard not to be nervous in these situations, but chances are, you’re much more versed on issues affecting the chronic pain community than your contact will be.
  • Feel free to reach out to the Alliance community to see if anyone can accompany you for the meeting or call.
  • Start by telling a little about yourself, your medical situation and how the new opioid guidelines are impacting you as well as others.
  • Focus on four key areas:
    • The severe impact the 2016 CDC Guidelines are having on chronic pain patients and on physicians who are leaving their practices or changing treatment policies for fear of federal retribution.
    • Data supports the understanding that the “opioid crisis” is being driven mainly by heroin and illicit fentanyl – not prescription opioids
    • The reality is that individuals with true chronic pain conditions have a less than 5% rate of addiction.
    • This new policy is driving otherwise functional, active individuals into disability — or worse, suicide.
    • Most ironic of all, restrictions on prescription opioids do nothing to solve the real problem. 90% of all addicts begin abusing drugs and alcohol in their teens – long before being seen by a doctor for pain.
  • Explain what we want:
    • A letter to the CDC asking that the existing guidelines be rescinded pending further studies and rewriting led by pain management specialists and pain patients
    • Participation of pain management specialists and pain patients in the new Senate Committee addressing opioids
  • Determine follow up actions – Chances are you won’t get buy in (or rejected) during the meeting. Ask your contact for what his/her next steps will be and when you can expect a response.
  • Send a thank you note to whomever you met along with any other information that may add further support for our mission
  • If you don’t hear from them by the follow-up date, contact them for an update.