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ARCHIVED  January 1, 1998

Cheyenne pain center targets Colo. market

Cheyenne pain center targets Colo. market

Dennis E. Curran

Business Report Wyoming Bureau

CHEYENNE Chronic pain!
More than 30 million Americans suffer from it. Each year, it costs billions of dollars in medical costs and billions more in lost productivity, but the real cost is in the millions of broken lives.
To make matters worse, most people suffering from chronic pain had to seek relief from pain centers in larger metropolitan centers such as Denver or suffer in silence. But now there is an alternative — a new medical team called Pain Consultants of the Rockies has offices in Cheyenne, Laramie, Fort Collins and Windsor and a growing practice in three states.
"People are sitting home in a great deal of pain because either they are unaware that treatment is available or it hasn˜t been offered them through their primary-care doctor because their primary-care doctor˜s not aware of what˜s available," lamented Dr. Harlan Ribnik, one of the founding partners of Pain Consultants. "We hope in time to reach more of these folks."
Ribnik is the first to concede that he and his associates, Dr. Chris Fernon and Dr. Ray Lansing, can˜t ease everybody˜s pain or offer complete relief from pain, but they are trying through the latest in pain-management techniques.
"We strive to offer a level of pain relief that will allow them to be more active and to get closer to a normal lifestyle," Ribnik explained. "We don˜t have magic bullets — we just have modern medicine and modern interventional techniques that can help these people recover more functional lives."
When people think of horrible pain, they often think of people in the final stages of terminal cancer, and indeed Pain Consultants of the Rockies treats people in that situation. But Fernon said perhaps 85 percent of their patients are people suffering from chronic benign pain — pain they won˜t die from but pain often so severe that it prevents their living normal lives.
"Once you˜ve got chronic pain, you don˜t have the same life you used to," Fernon said. "You can˜t go out to a movie, you can˜t go bowling, you can˜t go camping, you can˜t go hunting. All of a sudden, you become very house-bound, and that˜s very depressing. And of course you can˜t work for the most part — a few of our people work, but most can˜t. These people are just extremely miserable."
Most suffer from economic and mental depression; many are suicidal because of the intensity of the pain. Fernon said three patients committed suicide in the past year, "because life is not worth living if you can˜t get a certain amount of relief."
"The people I deal with are just so frustrated," Fernon said. "They get harassed from their insurance companies, from their employers, from their families. They˜re in a terrible state and predicament, and they don˜t have any advocates out there telling their story."
Pain management is a relatively new field, and many of its practitioners say they got involved because of the failure of most medical specialties to deal effectively with long-term severe pain. Both Ribnik and Fernon evolved into board-certified full-time pain-management specialists after working as anesthesiologists. Their practice seeks to treat people with pain that is not being treated by primary-care givers.
"Most physicians don˜t really know how to deal with chronic pain or what˜s available for treating it," Ribnik observed.
Added Fernon: "The medical system is well set up to deal with acute pain, but once a person moves into the realm of chronic pain, then many doctors don˜t know what to do with them. You˜re going to have them for a long time, because you˜re just not going to give them some magic pill and they˜re all better."
When they established their pain-management practice, they quickly discovered a void in pain-management experts in the upper Rocky Mountain West, including the Northern Front Range, Wyoming and western Nebraska, so they opened offices in several Front Range and southern Wyoming communities.
"It was a perceived need, a need that in fact has outstripped our expectations," Ribnik said. "There has been nobody in this area providing comprehensive pain management. It˜s often been hit and miss and more often miss than hit."
Ribnik and Fernon said the Northern Front Range gives them a population base for their practice. "It˜s a tremendous area, and truthfully we˜ve only scratched the surface of what people need out there," Ribnik said. "We haven˜t pushed the marketing too aggressively simply because we don˜t yet have the personnel to meet the need. That˜s something we˜re working on now."
Pain Consultants of the Rockies has three doctors and an office staff of four, but it works with a variety of other health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists and physical therapists. Associating with the practice are Dr. Steven Winber, a dentist practicing in Denver and Windsor, and Jackie Osterfoss, a licensed clinical social worker in Cheyenne.
Pain Consultants has its administrative office on Dell Range in Cheyenne and treats many patients at United Medical Center West, and is designing a "one-stop" office facility and ambulatory surgical center on East Lincolnway.
They hope to break ground by late spring or early summer and complete construction early next year. The building is being designed by Cheyenne architect Stephan Pappas. Bill Edwards has been selected as general contractor, and financing is being arranged by Craig Kerrigan of Security First Bank.

Cheyenne pain center targets Colo. market

Dennis E. Curran

Business Report Wyoming Bureau

CHEYENNE Chronic pain!
More than 30 million Americans suffer from it. Each year, it costs billions of dollars in medical costs and billions more in lost productivity, but the real cost is in the millions of broken lives.
To make matters worse, most people suffering from chronic pain had to seek relief from pain centers in larger metropolitan centers such as Denver or suffer in silence. But now there is an alternative — a new medical team called Pain Consultants of the Rockies has offices in Cheyenne,…

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