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The Importance Of Opioid Awareness

posted by Alicia Caramenico

on September 23, 2016

During Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, we pause to remember all those we have lost to opioid use disorder, we stand with the courageous individuals in recovery, and we recognize the importance of raising awareness of this epidemic.

Proclamation by President Obama, Sept. 16, 2016

President Obama has declared the week of Sept. 18-24 as Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week – the latest step in the ongoing fight against opioid misuse, addiction, and overdoses. Raising awareness about the national prescription opioid and heroin epidemic is a necessary tool for confronting this public health crisis.

The latest numbers show more than 1 in 3 American adults were given painkiller prescriptions by medical providers last year. In Tennessee, there are more opioid prescriptions than people – 1.18 prescriptions for every man, woman, and child, according to The Tennessean.

And these numbers continue to climb, numbers that represent family members, friends, and neighbors.

Emphasizing how crucial public awareness is, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s Vice President of Pharmacy Management Natalie Tate told The Tennessean, “There needs to be an acute awareness that this is a public health crisis for us across the state and the long-term consequences.”

Like BCBS Tennessee, health plans across the country have been stepping up to combat opioid abuse and addiction. Their efforts include evidence-based treatments for pain management, more cautious opioid prescribing, careful patient monitoring, and access to substance use disorder treatment when needed. In a guest blog post, Anthem detailed how it’s partnering with medical and behavioral health providers and using in-home care delivery and telehealth delivery models to help patients access high-quality, evidence-based opioid addiction treatment.

Here is another statistic: Every 25 minutes, a baby is born suffering from opiate withdrawal. To help mothers and their babies in the fight against the opioid epidemic, UPMC Health Plan in Pennsylvania has helped create an outpatient program that provides medical support and counseling for pregnant women struggling with an opioid addiction.

Health plans’ initiatives support the work of many stakeholders across the health system, including the CDC and HHS, and they will continue to focus their efforts on this important public health issue.