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New efforts in fighting the opioid epidemic
November 30, 2018

The opioid epidemic is “one of the greatest public health crises in American history, causing more deaths than AIDS and more deaths than the flu epidemic of 1918,” according to Ken Duckworth, MD, Blue Cross’ Behavioral Health Medical Director.


Dr. Ken Duckworth, Blue Cross Behavioral Health Medical Director

A 2018 public opinion poll revealed that Massachusetts residents overwhelmingly believe that the opioid epidemic is the single most important issue facing the Commonwealth. Three out of 10 people who responded to the poll were connected to someone who had died from an overdose.1

Blue Cross’ innovative approach to the crisis
Our company has taken an innovative approach to the crisis, including programs aimed at prevention, treatment, and education. We implemented a Prescription Pain Medication Safety Program in 2012, which has become a national model, and has helped reduce the dose and duration of opioid prescriptions.

Now we are moving forward to engage with the community, our members, and our providers in new ways to stem the epidemic. Here are some of the ways:

New online Opioid Resource Center
We recently added a comprehensive Opioid Resource Center to our public website. It provides non-judgmental guidance for members, family members, and providers about treatment, intervention, and recovery. Members can contact our Member Service or Care Management teams directly to get help.

Opioid-reversing toolkit pilot
We have also developed a ground-breaking pilot program with five Massachusetts employers to distribute an opioid reversing toolkit. The toolkit contains two nasal spray doses of Narcan in a pouch along with a surgical mask, gloves and instructions on how to administer the drug.

“The idea is to give people information and training on what essentially is a first aid tool,” says Duckworth. “Having that toolkit available can shorten the time it takes to administer the lifesaving drug by putting it where it’s needed—in the workplace.”

New pain management section on Provider Central
To help clinicians seeking to treat pain without opioids and patients already addicted to opioids, we have added a comprehensive new pain management section to our Treatment Resources page. Physicians and clinicians will find:

  • Common alternatives to opioid medications to treat pain
  • Medications we cover to treat substance use disorder

To access this page, log in and go to: Clinical Resources>Clinical Programs & Information>Treatment Resources.

No prescription or copay for Narcan
In Massachusetts, Naloxone (Narcan) can be sold at any pharmacy with or without a prescription. We have also eliminated the copay for all fully-insured members of all our commercial health plans to improve access to this life-saving medication. 

We are here to help
Whether a member needs intervention support, access to treatment services, or support throughout their recovery, or a clinician needs information on their patients coverage for substance use disorder—we’re here to help. Visit bluecrossma.com/opioid.

1 Anderson Robbins Research, Opioid Epidemic Public Opinion Poll, February 2018.

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