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Family says Pleasant Grove man committed suicide after going off pain meds too quickly

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Utah lobbyist works with lawmakers to stop "force-tapering"

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah (ABC4 News) – As Utah and the nation fight the opioid epidemic, patients suffering from chronic pain are being forced off of their medications too quickly, according to a local lobbyist.

That “force-tapering” had devastating consequences for a Pleasant Grove family.

Darleen Palmer says her husband Adam was funny, caring and loved his family. But he died by suicide in January after going off of his chronic pain medication. Palmer says Adam suffered a tick-bite a decade ago while roasting marshmallows with his family in American Fork Canyon. She says he contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a bacterial sickness spread by ticks, that resulted in chronic nerve pain that left him in agony.

She says a Fentanyl patch helped quell the pain, but due to insurance and dosage changes stemming from the recent fight against the nationwide opioid epidemic, Adam no longer had regular access to the pain medication he needed.

“It was excruciating for him,” said Palmer. “He didn’t want to suffer anymore.”

On the morning of January 20, Palmer says her husband got up early in the morning and drove to a remote area, where he shot himself. Adam Palmer and his wife have four children together, ranging in age from 19 to 12.

“The night before he left, he gave us all hugs and told us how much he loved us,” said Kelcee Palmer, 19. “I’m glad he’s not in pain anymore, even though we do miss him.”

“I can’t be mad at him,” said Darleen, who knew the pain and suffering her husband was enduring without his medication. She said he left a video message for his children before he passed away.

Is “force-tapering” a problem in Utah?

Cases like the Palmers’ have lobbyist Amy Coombs with Prestige Government Relations concerned.

“We can do better,” Coombs said about the problem in Utah, adding that force-tapering patients off of much-needed pain medications because of fears about the opioid crisis can have unintended negative consequences.

In cases like Adam Palmer’s, patients resort to drastic measures, she says.

“You either choose to not be here anymore because you’re in so much pain, you go out on the street and you find drugs, or you sit and suffer until you figure it out,” said Coombs.

Speaking to a the Utah Health Reform Task Force earlier this month, Coombs outlined ideas to stop force-tapering in Utah. The Centers for Disease Control has admitted that 2016 guidelines on how to manage the opioid epidemic have been “misapplied” by the medical community, and said “abrupt tapering or sudden discontinuation of opioids” is discouraged.

Coombs says because of the negative conversation about certain pain medications, insurance companies are hesitant to cover it and doctors are reluctant to prescribe it, or are weaning patients off of it too abruptly.

Coombs worked with Utah lawmakers on a bill file surrounding this issue that is expected to be debated in the 2020 legislative session.

ABC4 News has chosen not to name the insurance company or medical providers involved in Adam Palmer’s story.

The national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255

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Glen Mills

Chief Political Correspondent

For this Beetdigger and Ute it’s an honor to be doing what he loves in his home state! Glen is an award-winning journalist, who joined the ABC4 Utah team in June 2013. You can catch him anchoring ABC4 Utah News at 4 Monday through Friday. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent, keeping you up to date on issues that impact your life at the city, state and national level. His political reports run throughout the week, and he hosts Inside Utah Politics, Sunday mornings at 8. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time.. Read More...

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