We are so grateful to have Lisa Berendts and Candace Reis on the implementation team for our Integrated Pain Management (IPM) pilot at Puyallup Medical Center! Lisa and Candace have emerged as leaders—ensuring the IPM program is equipped to meet the mental health and social needs of our members with chronic pain.
Lisa Berendts, LICSW, is the Integrated Mental Health social worker at Puyallup. She often works with members who struggle with chronic pain and depression or other mental health issues. Her expertise and perspective helped guide the implementation team’s early (pre-COVID) conversations about integrating mental health into the IPM’s whole-person approach to pain management. “Access to mental health services can be challenging,” Lisa commented. “So, ideally, we needed a resource we could offer in the clinic to groups of members with chronic pain.”
Lisa then took the initiative to develop a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) course on chronic pain by leveraging the group materials from an existing, 8-week CBT course. She transformed the curriculum into a more approachable 4-week course that Puyallup members could access at the same clinic where they get their regular care. She completed the course in person with the first group of members just before COVID hit and then successfully adapted it for an online environment. The Integrated Mental social workers at the other 2 medical enters in this phase of the IPM pilot (Tacoma and Steele Street) are working to adapt the online course for members at their clinics.
Here’s what Lisa had to say about the course: “When I talk to members about what they got out of this and what they liked, they always emphasize the education piece and how important it is to learn about what pain is and how the body responds to it. It’s critical that they understand how medications work in their bodies and that there are limits. This opens peoples’ minds to the other things they can do to help with their pain other than take medications.”
As Puyallup’s community resource specialist (CRS), Candace Reis is laser-focused on what our members need and is the first to step up when there’s a need for patient outreach. She helped Lisa assemble CBT course materials for members and conducted post-course evaluations—collecting surveys from members and following up with them by phone. Candace and Lisa agree that the key learning from member feedback is that the course fills an essential gap in helping people understand what chronic pain is and how non-medication approaches can help them better manage it.
“That knowledge piece was huge for every single member I interviewed,” Candace said. “It was remarkable how much they learned about the basics of pain that they didn’t know before.” One member commented that the concepts in the course “totally changed my life.”
Another example of Candace’s leadership is suggesting that we add social needs screening as a fundamental component of chart review for members on high-dose opioids. Since then, we’ve learned that unaddressed social needs are a big issue for nearly all our members on high-dose opioids. But thanks to Candace, referral to a community resource specialist is now a standard recommendation that comes from nearly every chart review.
Thank you, Lisa and Candace, for your partnership, innovative thinking, and deeply member-centered perspectives!
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