Pain Management Program Expands After Successful First Year

Year Two Will Add Opioid Addiction Specialists

May 17, 2016

Media Contact
Marc Williams

DENVER, CO - Today the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (Department) announced the successful completion of its first Chronic Pain Disease Management Program (Program). The Program connects pain management specialists throughout the country with primary care providers across Colorado who are managing the care of Medicaid members suffering from chronic pain.

Colorado Medicaid launched the Chronic Pain Disease Management Program in March 2015 to improve the health of Medicaid members with chronic pain conditions and address rising rates of prescription drug abuse in Colorado.  The Program is modeled after the University of New Mexico's Project ECHO® which enables specialists and primary care providers to discuss cases they are actively managing and share best practices across HIPAA compliant videoconferencing technology.

"We are excited to see the demonstrated successes of the Chronic Pain Disease Management Program's first year of operation," said Department of Health Care Policy and Financing Executive Director Susan E. Birch, MBA, BSN, RN. "This innovative collaboration breaks down geographical and time barriers which so many health care providers face in the course of their daily practice. The use of interactive video enables health care providers to access specialists in the field of pain management regardless of location, saving precious time and money while providing their patients the best care possible."

The Program's first year saw 84 participating providers from 42 practices across the state. Provider feedback from the first year was very positive. More than 95-percent of providers said information learned in the Program could be applied in their practices, and another 88-percent would recommend the Program to their colleagues.

"This Program has helped me have more honest, direct conversations with patients about the impact and risks of long-term narcotics," said Julie Brady, MD, Colorado Springs Health Partners. "The case presentations have given me additional insight into alternative treatments and given my patients hope that we still have more options for treatment regimens."

In addition to continuing the Chronic Pain Disease management Program for a second year, the Department is adding a second phase called the Buprenorphine Telehealth Program in May. This second phase will connect primary care providers who are licensed to prescribe buprenorphine combination products such as Suboxone, with specialists to gain greater insights and experience with treating clients with opioid addiction.  Primary care providers can participate in one or both of these Programs at no cost to them. One of the Department's goals is to increase the number of providers trained in treating chronic pain and/or opioid addiction.

"The opiate problem that has developed in this country and Colorado in particular, has been well documented. There's a balance in treating pain and treating addiction," said Dr. Judy Zerzan, chief medical officer for the Department. "Addiction is often overlooked and under treated because it can be hard to identify, address and treat. Unfortunately providers don't often get this information in their medical training. This Program is going to support primary care in identifying and treating opiate addiction, and help our members who are struggling with opiate addiction."

Effective pain management is critical for well-being and quality of life. These Programs support the goals of Governor Hickenlooper and the Colorado Consortium for Drug Abuse and Prevention by helping primary care providers treat chronic pain and reduce prescription painkiller abuse among Medicaid members.


About the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing: The Department administers the Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus programs as well as a variety of other programs for low-income Coloradans who qualify. For more information about the department, please visit