Increased Precautions We're Taking in Response to COVID-19

LAST UPDATED ON 03/15/2021

As updates on the impact of the coronavirus continue to be released, we want to take a moment to inform you of the heightened preventative measures we have put in place at Sierra Tucson to keep our patients, their families, and our employees safe. All efforts are guided by and in adherence to the recommendations distributed by the CDC.

Please note that for the safety of our patients, their families, and our staff, there are certain restrictions in place regarding on-site visitation at Sierra Tucson.

  • These restrictions have been implemented in compliance with updated corporate and state regulations to further reduce the risks associated with COVID-19.
  • Options for telehealth visitation are continuously evaluated so that our patients can remain connected to their loved ones.
  • Alternate methods of communication for other services may be offered when deemed clinically appropriate.

For specific information regarding these changes and limitations, please contact us directly.

CDC updates are consistently monitored to ensure that all guidance followed is based on the latest information released.

  • All staff receives ongoing infection prevention and control training.
  • Thorough disinfection and hygiene guidance is provided.
  • Patient care supplies such as masks and hand sanitizer are monitored and utilized.
  • Temperature and symptom screening protocols are in place for all patients and staff.
  • Social distancing strategies have been implemented to ensure that patients and staff maintain proper distance from one another at all times.
  • Cleaning service contracts have been reviewed for additional support.
  • Personal protective equipment items are routinely checked to ensure proper and secure storage.
  • CDC informational posters are on display to provide important reminders on proper infection prevention procedures.

The safety of our patients, their families, and our employees is our top priority, and we will remain steadfast in our efforts to reduce any risk associated with COVID-19.

The CDC has provided a list of easy tips that can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then immediately dispose of the tissue.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are frequently touched.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.

For detailed information on COVID-19, please visit

Pain, Opiates, and the New CDC Guidelines

Sierra Tucson – Ranked #1 in Newsweek’s list of Best Addiction Treatment Centers in Arizona for 2020!

By Jerome Lerner, MD
Director, Pain Recovery Program at Sierra Tucson

On March 18, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines for the use of opiates in treating non-cancer pain. The report points out that opiate-related deaths have quadrupled since 1999. Twenty percent of patients seeking medical care for a pain-related condition walk out of the physician’s office with a prescription for narcotics. In the report, the CDC reviews the available research regarding effectiveness and risks of opiate medications to treat chronic non-cancer pain. The agency’s conclusion is that there is poor or no evidence to support long-term use of opiates. Therefore, opiates are not considered appropriate for the treatment of long-term pain.

Other recommendations found in the guidelines include:

  • Opiates should not be the first line of treatment in chronic pain.
  • Physicians should carefully reassess before prescribing more than 50 MME (morphine milligram equivalents) per day of narcotics.
  • Physicians should, for the most part, avoid equal to or greater than 90 MME per day.
  • Physicians should attempt to lower or eliminate opiate use in those using high-dose opiates (equal to or greater than 90 MME).
  • Physicians should be on the lookout for comorbidities such as anxiety, depression, and opiate-use disorders, which may be masked by prescribed opiate medication
  • Physicians should avoid the use of opiates in combination with benzodiazepines.

Through the Years
I have been practicing pain management in some form since the 1980s. In those days, opiates were used very modestly in the treatment of painful conditions. Instead, we relied on physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), muscle relaxers, and biofeedback.

In the 1990s, things began to change. The American Pain Society (APS) proposed that pain was being under-assessed and under-treated, which perhaps was partly true at the time. In 1995, the APS proposed the use of pain assessment as the “5th vital sign,” which should be performed during all medical visits in order to ensure that pain was being managed humanely and effectively.

Additional Reasons for the Rise  
At some point along the way, it seems the pendulum shifted toward procedural pain management, which could also be a contributing factor to the growing use of opiate medications. While such procedures have their place in pain management, they often overlook the very real and relevant psychosocial, psychiatric, and substance use issues that lie beneath chronic pain. Delving into such issues can be difficult and time-consuming, yet prove to be a necessary component in the overall recovery process.

The Sierra Tucson Approach   
I am proud to be part of Sierra Tucson’s Pain Recovery Program. Here, we are able to support individuals struggling with longstanding pain by reducing or eliminating opiate medication use, while providing a myriad of safe and effective strategies to reduce pain and suffering and improve functioning and quality of life. Our comprehensive program includes safe medication management, vigorous functional restoration, in-depth pain education, and treatment of co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, depression, trauma, and substance use disorder. As expectations from the CDC increase and the use and availability of high-dose opiates diminish, I believe that Sierra Tucson is a perfect place for many people struggling with pain to find a truly integrative treatment approach and change the direction of their lives toward a healthier, happier reality.

For more information on Sierra Tucson’s Pain Recovery Program, call our Admissions Coordinators at 855-693-7208.

About Dr. Lerner
Jerome Lerner, MD, joined Sierra Tucson’s Medical Team in December 2010 as director of the Pain Recovery Program. He was appointed interim medical director in December 2012 and accepted the position of medical director in September 2013. Wisconsin born and raised,  Dr. Lerner received his medical education and specialty training at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, and is a diplomate  of the American Academy of Pain Management. Dr. Lerner has investigated pain from many perspectives.

In The News
Dr. Lerner was featured in The Arizona Republic on April 6, 2016. Read Managing Back Pain – Causes, Prevention and Treatment Options by Meghann Finn Sepulveda.