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Health Advisory: County-Wide Safe Pain Management Guidelines

Published: January 17, 2017


Nearly every week, a person in Sonoma County dies from an accidental drug overdose. Prescription drug use and misuse is a large contributing factor to this problem. Because local emergency departments and primary care organizations are on the frontlines of prescription opioid use, misuse and abuse, the Committee for Healthcare Improvement, a subcommittee of Sonoma County Health Action, has brought together health system leaders to create and adopt county-wide guidelines for safe management of non-palliative pain. Standardizing medical care to known best practices will help ensure Sonoma County residents receive the highest quality of care and pain management while limiting unintended harm.

On January 23, 2017 all the Emergency Departments in Sonoma County will officially go-live with implementing these guidelines. In addition, most Sonoma County primary care provider groups and clinics have already begun to implement practices to improve pain management safety.

Sonoma County Department of Health Services is encouraging all healthcare providers in the community to be aware of these guidelines and to take steps to ensure safe pain management practices.

Actions Requested of Clinicians

  • Review the Sonoma County safe pain management guidelines for emergency departments and for primary care.
  • Adopt the guidelines or similar policies for your medical practice.
  • Implement practice infrastructure to support clinicians in safe pain management such as policies regarding refills, treatment agreements, and prescribing oversight committees
  • Patients should only have on provider managing and one pharmacy managing their pain. If you are not the primary provider, coordinate with the patient’s primary care provider prior to prescribing opioids or other controlled substances to manage pain.
  • Educate patients about the risks of opioid medications as well as safe storage and disposal.


The prescribing guidelines as well as a toolkit with resources to help healthcare providers with implementation of safe management practices are available at:

Additional Resources:

CDC Opioid Information and Guidelines:

Sonoma County Substance Abuse Referral Hotline: (707)565-7450