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Betty Ford Center integrates pain management into its program

November 18, 2010
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Long-term stay exposes patients to a variety of interventions

The Betty Ford Center’s new pain management track already has served 14 patients in its two months of operation, and center leaders believe they are addressing a critical risk factor for relapse among the people they treat. Having established programs to address the relapse triggers of trauma and relationship problems, Betty Ford administrators believed they needed to tackle chronic pain issues to complete the picture concerning the factors that most often impede progress.

“We feel we can treat both pain and addiction at the same time,” says Betty Ford Center CEO John Schwarzlose. “The patients need to be here for a minimum of 45 days, and we’ll focus on both [issues]. People aren’t flinching when we tell them that.”

Schwarzlose credits the presence of strong treatment and medical expertise as helping to place the treatment track in motion. Contributors include vice president of treatment services Johanna O’Flaherty, PhD, and Peter Przekop, a neurologist and osteopathic physician who also specializes in working with children in pain.

“He’s like the Pied Piper,” Schwarzlose says of Przekop, who helped design the pain management track. “He appeals to people because of his nature, his kindness.”

O’Flaherty explains that while patients in the program might use non-dependence producing medications as part of their pain management at the outset of treatment, the goal is for them to be medication-free. Each patient is exposed to a variety of interventions in a holistic context, with elements including cognitive-behavioral therapy, acupuncture, mindfulness techniques, and Qigong and other manual medicine approaches.

“The focus is for patients to establish an internal locus of control, so that they can be self-reliant rather than rely on doctors and meds,” O’Flaherty says.

Only those individuals with a primary diagnosis of chemical dependency are eligible to be treated at the center, in any of its programs. Many individuals in the initial group served in the pain management track have been women ages 40 to 60, with a history of long-term use of opiates.

Schwarzlose explains that the newly established track already is achieving results. “Last week we discharged a 67-year-old woman who had spent the past seven years in a wheelchair. She walked out of here,” he says.

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