Durham, N.C. – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) announced today that it has chosen the recipients of a $2 million investment aimed at addressing the state’s opioid epidemic. The five organizations selected are qualified 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations and public health entities in North Carolina that are helping to prevent addiction, treat opioid dependency and transform communities at a local level.
“In North Carolina alone, three people die every day from an opioid overdose,” said Dr. Anuradha Rao-Patel, Blue Cross NC Lead Medical Director and acute and chronic pain management specialist. “We are proud to invest in these five organizations that are working so diligently to combat the opioid epidemic in our state and its far-reaching impact felt by nearly every North Carolinian.”
Selections were based on each organization’s ability to create system-level changes across prevention, treatment and recovery—which mirrors Blue Cross NC’s three-pronged approach to addressing the opioid epidemic. The recipients of the investment include:
· Duke University Health System: As part of Duke University Health System’s efforts to expand access to care in rural communities, Blue Cross NC’s investment will support Duke University Health System’s Symmetry, a mobile health tool that standardizes opioid screening, prescribing and monitoring processes in North Carolina.
The Symmetry platform engages patients and their caregivers through a comprehensive, educational program that helps address the complexities surrounding opioid treatment and misuse. The platform will include two interfaces: a patient mobile application and a web-based clinician dashboard. Through Symmetry, patients will learn about appropriate prescription usage and how to track home opioid use, and clinicians will be provided with tips on how to spot potential misuse patterns before opioid abuse begins.
· University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine: Recently ranked #1 in primary care according to “U.S. News and World Report,” the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine works to improve medical care for North Carolinians. Unique partnerships and programming from the family medicine department are improving physicians’ knowledge and patient outcomes. One such initiative is the UNC Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes for Rural Primary Care Medication Assisted Treatment, which enables medical providers to incorporate evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder into their practices. The goal is to improve the effectiveness of care for substance abuse patients across North Carolina.
With Blue Cross NC’s investment, the initiative’s Group Visit Project will integrate primary care, behavioral health and group therapy into a combined program. This new funding enables researchers to train more providers and launch additional UNC ECHO for MAT programs to serve more North Carolinians.
· Rowan County Health Department: Witnessing the success of Post-Overdose Response Teams (PORT) in other cities and counties across the country, the Rowan County Health Department will use Blue Cross NC’s investment to create a PORT to address the opioid epidemic affecting Rowan County. This team is part of a coordinated effort between the Rowan County Health Department, the Center for Prevention Services and Rowan County Emergency Medical Services.
In Rowan County, unintentional overdose deaths have more than tripled between 2001 and 2016.Through the PORT model, Rowan County will offer coordinated support beyond the initial intervention by providing supportive outreach to identified opioid users and high-risk communities. The county’s PORT team will be comprised of a Harm Reduction Advocate, a Certified Peer Support Specialist and a Community Paramedic from Emergency Medical Services to ensure opioid users not only receive emergency medical care when needed, but also ongoing support to help them in their journey toward becoming drug-free. The Community Paramedic will identify clients at the point of the original EMT overdose response and will offer the additional support by referral to the Harm Reduction Advocate and the Peer Support Specialist. Multiple attempts will be made to contact and encourage enrollment into the support group. The clients will also be provided with Naloxone kits and information on safe usage and storage. This approach should help reduce the number of overdose calls to EMS and visits to the Emergency rooms.
· Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation: Blue Cross NC’s investment will provide funding for a partnership between Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) and Stanly County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) that focuses on enabling first-responders to offer overdose survivors treatment beyond immediate resuscitation.
Stanly County is a rural community of approximately 61,000 residents, located in central North Carolina. The county has the state’s highest rate of opioid overdoses that result in emergency department visits. As part of this two-year project, Stanly County will train community paramedics to administer buprenorphine to opioid overdose survivors and assist in getting survivors into a long-term Medication-Assisted Treatment program Stanly County EMS believes that this treatment approach will prevent overdose deaths and expand access to care.
· Together for Resilient Youth (TRY): Based in Durham County, Together for Resilient Youth (TRY) is a non-profit organization that works to prevent substance use among youth and adults by reducing community risk factors through education, mobilization and collaborative action.
With the support of Blue Cross NC, TRY is launching Forward Together, an initiative which seeks to use the power of TRY and its established coalition partner members to be trained as family and community peer supports in Durham, Vance-Granville, Edgecombe-Nash, Craven and Yadkin counties. As part of the initiative, Forward Together will use Bringing Recovery Supports to Scale Technical Assistance Center Strategy (BRSS TACS). BRSS TACS supports programs, systems, states, territories, and tribes as they implement effective recovery supports and services for children, youth, families, young adults, adults, seniors, and other diverse populations with mental or substance use disorders.
The $2 million investment dispersed between these organizations is part of Blue Cross NC’s larger $10 million investment in addressing the opioid epidemic announced last year. For more information about Blue Cross NC’s efforts across the state to battle the opioid epidemic, please go to www.bluecrossnc.com/opioids.
About Blue Cross NC:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina improves the health and well-being of our customers and communities by providing innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.89 million members, including approximately 1 million served on behalf of other Blue Plans. Since 1933, we have worked to make North Carolina a better place to live through our support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Visit Blue Cross online at bluecrossnc.com. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.