Vancouver group forms to ease pain

Health care providers share ideas about how best to treat patients

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Western Pain Society of Washington — Vancouver Chapter and upcoming meetings

Southwest Washington clinicians across the health care spectrum are breaking new ground when it comes to providing pain care.

This year, a handful of providers launched the Pain Society of Washington -- Vancouver Chapter, the first group of its kind in Washington state. The objective of the pain society is to allow providers to make connections with others who have different specialties and to learn how they provide care for patients in pain.

“It creates a community rather than separate individual people you refer to,” said Dr. Jill Fancher, co-chairwoman of the Vancouver chapter and a psychologist at Evergreen Behavioral Health. “It’s getting to know more than the title.”

The pain society is a professional group for clinicians in any health specialty. The local group’s meeting earlier this month included family practitioners, interventional pain specialists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, psychologists and physical therapists, among others.

The Pain Society of Washington falls under the umbrella of the Western Pain Society, which represents 13 western states. The local group is modeled after the Pain Society of Oregon, which has had chapters in Eugene since 1998 and Portland since 2005. Another chapter in Bend, Ore., will hold its first meeting next month.

“Before (Vancouver), the whole Western Pain Society was Oregon,” said Shannon Wilson, secretary of the local chapter and spine care coordinator for PeaceHealth Southwest Brain & Spine Center.

The group meets on the second Thursday of each month. Each meeting offers 30 minutes of networking before a presentation, which is given by local health care providers. Each presentation is given by accredited providers and meets continuing education requirements. The topics vary; upcoming subjects include nutrition and pain, the psychology of pain and chiropractic care for pain management.

“It’s designed to be a nice mix for everyone,” said Jennifer Wagner, executive director of the Western Pain Society.

The Vancouver chapter held its first meeting in January. So far, 23 providers have joined the society. Most practice in Clark County but some work in neighboring Cowlitz County. Nonmembers are also welcome to attend; this month’s meeting had 47 attendees.

Since the launch of the local chapter, Seattle-area providers have requested a chapter of their own, Wagner said. A Puget Sound chapter may be launched next year, she said.

Dr. Ben Platt, co-chairman of the local group and a pain specialist for PeaceHealth Southwest Interventional Pain Clinic, said he and his patients are already benefitting from the group.

Before the society, Platt didn’t know any acupuncturists or chiropractors, nor what they could offer a person experiencing chronic pain. Now, he said, he personally knows several and can make referrals so patients get the best care possible.

“For a community that’s had issues and struggles to pull together to work toward a greater good, it’s kinda cool,” Platt said.

The fallout surrounding the former Payette Clinic in Vancouver made many local providers hesitate to accept pain patients, with some even implementing policies prohibiting the use of opiates, Fancher said. While some may continue those practices, Fancher hopes the society will at least give the provider alternatives for their patients. The society gives providers access to specialists, pain management approaches and tools they may not otherwise experience, Fancher said.

“It’s kind of like an interdisciplinary clinic without walls,” she said.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health;http://facebook.com/reporterharshman;marissa.harshman@columbian.com.