Clinic closure will leave hundreds in Grand Valley with uncertain medical future | Western Colorado


Shelby Kunz was born with scoliosis, a condition in which the spine twists and curves to the side. All of his discs are ruptured and only a few vertebrae are unfused above his tailbone.

He homeschools his children and has had relative mobility despite his condition and despite having a high tolerance for medication, including even morphine. What keeps him from writhing in bed and screaming in pain every night is his prescription narcotics. He was prescribed narcotics for his condition for over a quarter of a century, including his entire adult life.

A longtime resident of the West Slope, Kunz has lived in both Fruita and Montrose over the years, in order to be close to the best treatment he could receive because, amid the nationwide crackdown ‘State of opioid prescriptions, few institutions are able to prescribe regular pain. medication for those who need it in perpetuity.

In recent years, he and his family have moved to Grand Junction to be closer to Colorado injury and pain specialists because, amid changing Colorado laws on standards for prescribing opioids for patients, he became the only pain clinic in the region to prescribe the drug. he needs.

However, Colorado Pain and Injury Specialists and Redlands Mesa Surgery Center, both located in the same building and owned by Ohio-based DECA Health, will soon be closing.

Once that happens, Kunz will be among many patients on Colorado’s West Slope with no way to legally access narcotics for the treatment of chronic pain.

“We’re talking about hundreds of people who are now, all of a sudden, without notice, stuck in a situation where you have these options: you have to move now because you can’t get medicine, or find another way to heal,” Kunz said.

On March 8, staff at Colorado Injury and Pain Specialists and Redlands Mesa Surgery Center were caught off guard by an announcement from DECA Health: The surgery center would be closing April 1, injury specialists and of Colorado Pain would follow on April 8.

Still stunned to learn that they would all be out of work next month, the pain clinic’s specialists sent out notices that day to all of its patients to relay the news.


In May 2018, then Governor. John Hickenlooper signed into law Senate Bill 18-22 for the clinical practice of prescribing opioids. By law, a prescriber must limit a patient’s initial prescription of an opioid to a seven-day supply if they have not written an opioid prescription for the patient in the past 12 months. . The prescriber may exercise discretion in including a second fill for a seven day supply.

These limits do not apply if, in the opinion of the prescriber, the patient meets certain criteria, such as chronic pain that typically lasts longer than 90 days or exceeds normal healing time.

While pain clinics are the only legally authorized medical entity to prescribe regular narcotics for chronic pain in the Centennial State, Colorado’s prescribing standards are high for doing so.

Colorado injury and pain specialists require patients who have been prescribed narcotics to sign controlled substance agreements (CSAs), in which they undergo drug screenings, must see a counselor or therapist once a month and receive an opioid risk assessment (ORE) from a psychiatrist. In this way, a patient’s mental health is considered as deeply as their physical health.

There are three other leading pain clinics on the West Rim, including two in the Grand Valley and one in the Delta, but none of them prescribe narcotics for chronic pain. The Daily Sentinel contacted each pain clinic for insight into their decisions not to prescribe narcotics, but they did not respond.

Kunz said he spoke to his insurance company and called more than 15 pain clinics in his network, from Glenwood Springs to Rifle to other clinics in the Valley. All are willing to provide drug injections, but for many, including Kunz, the injections do not replace prescribed narcotics.

When these clinics have a referral for a clinic that prescribes narcotics for chronic pain, it’s always the same: Colorado Injury and Pain Specialists – the reason for the call in the first place.

“They take you to see a psychiatrist once every six months because they’re concerned about people dealing with depression and possibly suicide,” Kunz said. “They don’t want anyone going down this road because it’s an issue with opioids. What do you think is going to happen when they cut everyone off like that and everyone is dealing with massive amounts of pain?

“If they’re worried about killing themselves because of depression and pain, what about withdrawal symptoms? Every time they change drugs, they do it very slowly because you have to slowly stop this stuff, and they just cut people. Hundreds of people.”

DECA Health President William James issued a statement to the Daily Sentinel, titled “statement to the community,” about the clinic’s impending closure:

“Colorado Pain and Injury Specialists (CIPS) was founded in 2013 and was the region’s first integrated pain management program offering psychology, physical therapy, medical management and elective intervention for patients with acute and chronic pain.

“The outbreak of COVID has created a national crisis of healthcare worker shortages and therefore increased costs. For more than two years, we subsidized the CIPS to maintain the care of our patients.

“With the same national challenges across our network, we have reached a point where CIPS has not been able to continue to provide our patients with the quality care we have come to expect.

“We are working with other providers in the community to transition our patients’ care and thank the community for their support over the past 8 years.”


There are alternatives for the treatment of chronic pain to some degree, for some. For example, at Family Health West, pain management specialists can offer options such as spinal cord stimulation, steroid injections, nerve blocks, targeted radiological abrasion, and acupuncture that may help. some relief to people with chronic pain.

“Family Health West takes a multidisciplinary approach to pain using the latest advancements from our Interventional Pain Center, orthopedic assessments, alternative treatments with our rehabilitation specialists, neuropsychological therapy, as well as physical therapy and therapy. ‘traditional occupational therapy,’ said the president and CEO of Family Health West. Korrey Klein in a statement to the Sentinel.

“Family Health West also offers unique services including minimally invasive spine procedures, pool therapy, and driver rehabilitation services that not only reduce pain, but overcome the debility caused by the pain of a patient. Family Health West is uniquely suited to address the physical and psychological impacts of acute and chronic pain.

However, for people like Kunz and hundreds of others who have depended on Colorado’s injury and pain specialists for so long, these measures will not be enough to fill the void once cured by narcotics once their only source of best treatment available for their personal life. the ailments disappear.

Kunz’s main concern isn’t even himself. He said he’s one of the young people who rely on Colorado’s injury and pain specialists because every time he goes to the clinic, he’s surrounded by people “twice as old,” people who are also uncertain about their medical future.

“I can barely do things as they are. I don’t know how someone who is a single person with a disability that causes massive chronic pain is supposed to be up and moving in a matter of weeks,” Kunz said.

“You can’t even sell a house that quickly. Then there will be a great lack of medicine. They tell everyone, “Well, contact your primary care provider and maybe they can get you some more,” and my doctor isn’t going to prescribe me narcotics. They’re like, ‘Oh, no. I don’t touch that. All it takes is one overdose or one lost, stolen or sold drug and they will lose their licence.


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