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Department of Health Services

For Immediate Release

Sonoma County Adopts Opioid Prescribing Guidelines for Safe Management of Pain

Santa Rosa,CA | January 23, 2017

Today the Committee for Healthcare Improvement, a coalition of healthcare providers that is part of Sonoma County Health Action, announced health care organizations across Sonoma County are implementing common guidelines for safe pain management. The purpose of adopting standardized practices across all emergency departments and most primary care providers is to ensure that clinicians follow best practices for addressing pain while simultaneously curbing the nationwide opioid epidemic.

“As leaders, we aim to make our county the healthiest in California. Today in Sonoma County emergency departments, visits for accidental opioid overdose have gone up 73% over about a four year period, and our rate is significantly higher than California overall. I’m proud that our medical community is leading the effort to address the issues of overuse and misuse head-on,” said Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Shirlee Zane.

“In 2014, about one quarter of Sonoma County residents filled an opioid prescription. Such a high number is contributing to the epidemic,” said Dr. Karen Milman, Sonoma County Health Officer. “There are clear risks when using an opioid that the public needs to be aware of, including the possibility of misuse or negative long-term health risks. Opioids should only be used when necessary, and usually only for short periods of time.”

Uniform guidelines help update physicians about evolving best practices, alternatives for treating pain effectively, and avoidance of combinations of medicine considered particularly dangerous. Guidelines also recommend writing prescriptions for shorter durations and closely monitoring patients and their progress. In addition, the guidelines provide better ways to talk with patients about pain management options.

Pain Management and Safe Opioid Prescribing for Health Care Providers

“As medical providers, we are learning about the grave risks of long-term opioid use as well as how we have over-estimated the benefits,” conveyed Dr. Lisa Ward. “It is our imperative to partner with our patients to share this information so that together we use the safest and most effective strategies for the many patients we care for living with chronic pain.” Dr. Ward is the Chief Medical Officer for Santa Rosa Community Health Centers and co-led the efforts to create the guidelines.

The guidelines were created by Health Action's Committee for Healthcare Improvement (CHI), which is charged with optimizing healthcare delivery and improving health in Sonoma County.