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Independence Blue Cross Foundation announces collaboration to improve care for survivors of an opioid overdose in Bucks County

Pictured left to right:  Stephen Fera, SVP, Independence Blue Cross, Heather Major, Director IBC Foundation programs, Ashely E. (BCARES participant), Secretary Jennifer Smith, PA Dept. of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Lorina Marshall-Blake, President, IBC Foundation, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1)

Results of an Independence Blue Cross Foundation study evaluating warm hand-offs provides basis for $650,000 additional funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to help overdose survivors get treatment 

Philadelphia, PA — July 22, 2019 — The Independence Blue Cross Foundation (Foundation), Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), and Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission, Inc. (BCDAC, Inc.) today jointly announced new funding resulting from a public-private collaboration to improve care for residents who survive opioid overdose.

DDAP will provide $650,000 in grants to BCDAC, Inc. to implement several of the best practices identified in a 2017 Foundation study that examined emergency department “warm hand-off” programs. A warm hand-off occurs when a certified recovery specialist (CRS) visits a person who has survived overdose to discuss recovery options, including withdrawal management and rehabilitation. The grants will fund additional CRSs in all six Bucks hospitals as well as other enhancements, such as family support and hospital staff education by health care professionals who are in long term recovery.

The Foundation’s seven-month study was conducted by Public Health Management Corporation’s Research and Evaluation Group. The study measured the success of a collaboration between Bucks County addiction treatment agencies and local hospitals that provide warm hand-offs for people who survive overdose.

Key recommendations from the study include:

  • Expanding CRS availability, especially for hospitals that don’t have a co-located treatment agency;
  • Adding warm hand-off training into new physician orientations and other education opportunities such as grand rounds or huddles;
  • Using automated triggers in electronic health records to identify an overdose survivor; and
  • Increasing access to Narcan, the overdose rescue medication.

The Foundation is commissioning a second study that will re-evaluate the program, track outcomes, and provide further recommendations. The study will begin in September 2019 and results will be communicated in 2020.

“This study, and the one that will follow, are important benchmarks for measuring the success of what is one of the most critical pieces of the recovery process — getting someone into substance use treatment as quickly as possible,” said Lorina Marshall-Blake, president of the Foundation. “We’re excited that this research was a valuable tool in providing additional resources for Bucks County, and for broader discussions across the state focused on combating the growing opioid epidemic.”

“We applaud the IBC Foundation for its commitment and efforts to address the opioid crisis in our state,” said DDAP Secretary Jen Smith.  “We’re optimistic that with the additional resources this funding provides, doctors and treatment providers in Bucks County will greatly increase the likelihood that someone with the disease of addiction gets the help they need.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania experienced an 81 percent increase in opioid overdose emergency department visits from 2016 to 2017, one of the highest increases in the nation.

DDAP prioritized warm hand-offs as part of contractual agreements with the county program offices, known as Single County Authorities (SCAs). This requires SCAs to have a direct referral process in place for those agreeing to treatment from a warm hand-off in an emergency department. Since January 2017, more than 5,000 individuals have been directly referred to treatment as part of the warm hand-off concept.  In Bucks County, among residents who overdosed and agreed to meet with a CRS, 56 percent were placed directly in inpatient treatment.

The Foundation, through its Supporting Treatment and Overdose Prevention (STOP) initiative, is increasing awareness about the opioid epidemic. It is also improving access to opioid abuse prevention and treatment in southeastern PA through a variety of strategies and regional partnerships, such as:

  • Someone You Know: A multimedia public awareness campaign focused on reducing the stigma of opioid abuse and inspiring hope in people seeking help with addiction and recovery.
  • Enabling Community Partners: Supporting community-based treatment and prevention programs.
  • Prescription Drug Takeback Programs: Supporting efforts to increase availability of safe medication disposal locations through a partnership with Walgreens.

About the Independence Blue Cross Foundation: 
The Independence Blue Cross Foundation is a charitable, private foundation, whose mission is leading solutions for a healthier community. The Foundation targets the following areas of impact:

  • Securing the Blue Safety Net: Improving access to quality, affordable health care in medically underserved areas.
  • Bolstering the Health Care Workforce: Advancing the nursing workforce through education and professional development.
  • Addressing Health Priorities: Finding local solutions to national health issues through research and cross-sector partnerships. Currently focusing on the opioid epidemic through the Supporting Treatment and Overdose Prevention (STOP) initiative.
  • Community Innovation: Supporting pilot projects that pursue new approaches to existing health-focused challenges in the community.

Learn more by visiting our website: Connect with the Independence Blue Cross Foundation on Twitter at @ibxfdn.

Media Contact:

Ruth Stoolman
Independence Blue Cross
215-241-4807 (office)
215-667-9537 (cell)


Independence Blue Cross Foundation Team

The Independence Blue Cross Foundation is leading a future for equitable health in our communities and nation. The IBX Foundation’s grant programs and the Independence Blue Cross Foundation Institute for Health Equity are advancing three areas of impact: Access to Care, the Healthcare Workforce, and Health Equity. Since inception the IBX Foundation’s most important stakeholder – the community – has been at the center of the work. By the end of 2023, the IBX Foundation will have awarded grants totaling more than $80 million to support nonprofits and research improving the health and well-being of communities in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Learn more by visiting our website: Connect with the Independence Blue Cross Foundation on LinkedIn.