New effort begins in Kansas City to help people with chronic pain

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- An Institute of Medicine report found that more Americans live with chronic pain than with cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined. Kansas City could become a national model in changing the way pain is perceived, judged and treated.

Jonathan Bell has pain every day resulting from sickle cell disease. He says sometimes, his pain is above a 10 on the scale of one to 10. Compare it to getting an unnumbed tooth pulled.

"Times it by a 100. That's what it feels like if you can imagine that," said Bell.

Imagine, too, the skepticism of some health care providers. They've thought he's a drug seeker.

"I've had to have other doctors and nurses vouch for me as not being that," said Bell.

Myra Christopher of the Center for Practical Bioethics says there are many thousands in the metro fighting pain and misperceptions.

"They are disrespected. They are ignored. They are told their problem is in their head. They're just lazy," said Christopher.

The center is starting an initiative called "Relieving Pain in Kansas City" to educate the public and care providers, and transform how pain is treated at hospitals and safety net clinics. Christopher says medicine alone isn't the answer. People need psychological and social support, too.

"Where people will have access to personalized care that is provided by an interdisciplinary team," she said.

Christopher expects the effort will also include the faith community.

"The faith community needs to be front and present and say God doesn't want you to suffer," Christopher said.

How does Bell keep going?

"The grace of God," he said.

Bell listens to Gospel music and, for a moment, has some relief from his unrelenting pain.

Bell is in a leadership group of patients that's helping to guide the initiative.

"Relieving Pain in Kansas City" kicks off with a public forum Tuesday evening at 6:30 at Community Christian Church, 4601 Main Street. Judy Foreman, author of the new book A Nation in Pain, will speak. The $10 admission charge includes a hardback copy of the book for each household.

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