I can’t read or watch anything these days without seeing something about the opioid epidemic. The statistics are staggering, and the loss in our communities is plain to see. If I had to guess, I would say that each of us can think of someone affected by this crisis. We have a responsibility to the community and other stakeholders to come together to figure this out.
That’s why the opioid crisis in our region is a top priority for the Independence Blue Cross Foundation (Foundation). We are taking action on many of the recommendations you may have read or heard about through our latest initiative — Supporting Treatment and Overdose Prevention or STOP initiative.
Supporting Treatment and Overdose Prevention (STOP) initiative
With our STOP initiative, we are focusing on sustainable, community-based solutions — because this problem isn’t one-size-fits-all.
The STOP initiative aims to increase awareness of this public health crisis and improve access to prevention and treatment. With regional partners and national experts in health and policy, the Foundation aims to break the cycle of addiction. We are achieving this through community research, strategic grant-making, and cross-sector partnerships. More specifically:
- We are empowering nurses by increasing their knowledge of opioid dependency to ensure they can provide the best care to patients in greatest need. Nursing schools that receive Foundation scholarship funds are among those that have pledged to integrate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) safe prescribing guidelines in nursing curriculum. We set a goal to double the number of school pledges in our region. And, we will continue to provide continuing nursing education with national experts to improve clinical engagement.
- We also know that many of the health centers that receive grants through the Blue Safety Net grant program provide Medication-Assisted-Treatment. We are working with health centers — and Centers of Excellence — to determine gaps in care and opportunities to build treatment capacity in the region. We’re funding new research in Bucks County to study the effectiveness of the Emergency Room warm handoff program for overdose survivors. Our research partner, Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC), will evaluate the Bucks County Connect-Assess-Refer-Engage-Support (B-CARES) program and provide recommendations to establish a best practice model that can be replicated in other counties in Pennsylvania and nationally.
- The Foundation is also focused on preventing addiction. We are enabling nonprofits to educate and mentor youth and their families. We’re proud to have pioneered a community-based model with The Moyer Foundation to reach youth who are experiencing addiction in their families.
How you can help
One easy and effective prevention strategy that we can all participate in is safe disposal of our medications. Simply by ridding a medicine cabinet of unused and expired prescriptions, each of us can make a difference.
You may have seen our recent ad campaign leading up to National Drug Take-Back Day on April 29. Compared to the previous take back day in October, in our region there was a 15.4 percent increase in the quantity of pills collected on April 29.
Availability. Awareness. Accessibility. All are critical to the continued success of prescription drug take-back programs.
A commitment to collaboration
Despite all that is being done in our region, the data suggests an even greater urgency for community, policymakers, providers, and payers to better understand and begin to solve the opioid epidemic. That’s why it is so important for us to be strategic in our approach as a funder who works with its partners to improve community health.
It’s also why we convened a conversation with leaders in health, business, and government along with Independence Blue Cross President and CEO, Daniel J. Hilferty and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
Positive change begins when all stakeholders work together. Through its existing partnerships and the STOP initiative, the Foundation has made a commitment to work with community organizations, pharmacies, health care and treatment providers, and policymakers to prevent and break the vicious cycle of addiction.