Prepared by Carrie Dorn, MPA, LMSW, Senior Practice Associate, National Association of Social Workers

The National Association of Social Workers held its 2020 NASW Virtual Conference on June 15th-17th. The theme of this year’s event was Social Workers Make a Difference. Social work thought leaders and allied professionals came together for three days of unparalleled professional development, continuing education opportunities, and inspiring conversations regarding today’s critical issues. Plenary and keynote sessions addressed topics including systemic racism, COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 election, suicide prevention, and global social work.

The conference featured a 90-minute breakout session, Best Practices at the Intersection of Pain Management, Opioid Use and Mental Health, which highlighted efforts to reduce stigma and improve access to quality care for individuals living with pain. The presentation emphasized the importance of understanding the unique needs of people with chronic pain, mental health disorders, or opioid or substance use disorders.

Adam Seidner, MD, MPH, shared a vision for a paradigm shift in health care service delivery where pain care is viewed from a human systems approach that considers the whole person as well as social and behavioral factors. Amy Goldstein, MSW, highlighted AACIPM’s work with a diverse array of stakeholders to advance access to integrated and individualized care through evidence-informed practice. Yvette Colón, PhD, ACSW, LMSW, outlined key principles of good pain management treatment and clinical interventions that can address chronic pain. She challenged attendees to reject assumptions that may create a hierarchy of pain or question the legitimacy of an individual’s experience with pain.

Dr. Colón also asked attendees to take action at all levels of practice and have “relentless optimism.” This call to optimism resonated with the viewers, especially now, as providers and patients face unprecedented challenges. Providers across the health care continuum can strive to achieve this frame of mind by elevating client experiences and advocating for the individualized care that each person deserves.