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WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Highmark Health and Geisinger, fortified by a joint venture in north-central Pennsylvania, announced today results of efforts to address the opioids crisis. At a press conference held in Williamsport, an area that has been particularly hard hit by the epidemic, leaders of both organizations updated the community on the progress being made to limit access to opioids and treating individuals who have become addicted. 

Highmark Health continues to make progress in addressing opioid abuse and addiction, responding to its members' and patients' needs with a comprehensive approach that emphasizes primary prevention, safe prescribing, high-quality and accessible addiction treatment, and community supports. Through these efforts, Highmark Health has helped to lower the use and duration of use of opioids, and strengthened services available to individuals and families confronted by drug dependence. 

During the 2018 calendar year, Highmark lowered overall opioid prescription fills by 15 percent for commercially-insured members in Pennsylvania. Ninety percent of Highmark's commercially-insured members who were prescribed opioid-based medications for the first time received a week's supply or less of medication. 

Since 2014, Geisinger has reduced opioid prescriptions by nearly half — slashing prescriptions from 60,000 per month to 31,000. Since 2017, 1,700 patients have been treated at Geisinger's medication-assisted treatment (MAT) clinics for an opioid or alcohol use disorder. Within the past year, the MAT program has observed an 89 percent reduction in mortality among those with opioid use disorder. Geisinger opened a MAT clinic in Williamsport last year. 

"Death rates from opioids in our region are four times greater than that of New York City. Here at Geisinger, we are changing that," said Michael A. Evans, RPh, Chief Pharmacy Officer for Geisinger. "Our teams have found three core workstreams focused on the opioid epidemic: prevention, pain management, and treatment. We've developed opioid alternatives, rigorous monitoring of opioid use and community education. When possible, we don't prescribe opioids. And those struggling with addiction can also come to us for compassionate, evidence-based care." 

In the spring of 2019, Highmark surveyed adult community members in each of its core health insurance markets in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware to understand the public's attitudes toward and experiences with opioid dependence. The surveys yielded a statistically valid sample and were weighted to be generally reflective of each region's age and gender demographics. 

  • In the northeastern Pennsylvania designated market area, nearly three out of every four people (73 percent) said that there is a problem with opioid overuse in their community, and three out of four (74 percent) believe that the health care industry should more closely monitor opioid prescriptions. 

  • About four in ten people (38 percent) indicated that they have a friend, family member, or close acquaintance who has suffered from opioid addiction or dependence. Among those who have had someone close to them suffer, about six in ten (58 percent) said that they did not know about the person's opioid use before the person developed an addiction or dependence.
    Fortunately, seven in ten (70 percent) say that the person suffering has sought treatment. 

  • Nearly nine in 10 people surveyed in northeastern Pennsylvania (87 percent) believe that opioid addiction or dependence is mostly or somewhat the fault of the person using opioids.

"So many people across the country, and particularly in the regions that we serve, have been affected in some way by the opioid crisis," said Deborah Rice-Johnson, president, Highmark Inc. "In response, we launched a 'war on opioids' in 2018 to address this urgent problem through new programs, policy changes and partnerships that span across the Highmark Health enterprise and extend into the community. We are pleased with the initiative's early progress. But we recognize that this war will not be won easily, and that doing so will require a spirit of collaboration. We are committed to serving our members and the community throughout this evolving public health crisis — including through expanded education and outreach initiatives that combat stigma and re-frame opioid dependence as a chronic disease, rather than a moral failing." 

Additionally, in 2017 and 2018, Highmark and the Highmark Foundation collectively gave nearly $500,000 toward community organizations and programs fighting the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania. These grants and sponsorships support front line efforts including filling an emergency need for naloxone, community-based drug prevention and addiction treatment plans, and rehabilitation and treatment facilities. 

"Opioid addiction and abuse have touched many of the people we know and care about here in North Central Pennsylvania," said Tammy Anderer, vice president and chief administrative officer for Geisinger's North Central region. "Geisinger and Highmark share forward-thinking approaches to helping our community recover and heal, and now we're able to flex our clinical joint venture to address opioids through a collaborative approach." 

Geisinger and Highmark announced a joint venture in 2017 that enables a cohesive focus North Central Pennsylvania, where they will explore creating a clinical network that is patient-focused, physician-oriented and community-based, with comprehensive access for Highmark and Geisinger Health Plan members, including those in Medicare Advantage Plans. 

Geisinger and Highmark's joint experience in care delivery and care management can help advance value and affordability. Working more closely together, they can bring innovative, consumer-centered care models to the community. Geisinger and Highmark have committed more than $100 million to improve existing clinical facilities, develop new ones, expand services and improve access to care across the region.

About Highmark Health

Highmark Health, a Pittsburgh, PA-based company, that, together with its subsidiaries and affiliates collectively employ more than 40,000 people and serve millions of Americans across the country, is the second largest integrated health care delivery and financing network in the nation based on revenue. Highmark Health is the parent company of Highmark Inc., Allegheny Health Network, and HM Health Solutions. Highmark Inc. and its subsidiaries and affiliates provide health insurance to nearly 5 million members in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware as well as dental insurance, vision care and related health products through a national network of diversified businesses that include United Concordia Companies, HM Insurance Group, and Visionworks. Allegheny Health Network is the parent company of an integrated delivery network that includes eight hospitals, more than 2,400 affiliated physicians, ambulatory surgery centers, an employed physician organization, home and community-based health services, a research institute, a group purchasing organization, and health and wellness pavilions in western Pennsylvania. HM Health Solutions focuses on meeting the information technology platform and other business needs of the Highmark Health enterprise as well as unaffiliated health insurance plans by providing proven business processes, expert knowledge and integrated cloud-based platforms. To learn more, please visit www.highmarkhealth.org.

 

About Geisinger
One of the nation’s most innovative health services organizations, Geisinger serves more than 1.5 million patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The system includes 13 hospital campuses, a nearly 600,000-member health plan, two research centers and the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. Geisinger is known for its focus on caring and innovative programs including the ProvenCare® best-practice approach to maximize quality, safety and value; ProvenHealth Navigator® advanced medical home; Springboard Health® population health program to improve the health of an entire community; ProvenExperience™ to provide refunds to patients unhappy with their care experience; and Geisinger’s MyCode® Community Health Initiative, the largest healthcare system-based precision health project in the world. With more than 215,000 volunteer participants enrolled, MyCode is conducting extensive research and returning medically actionable results to participants. A physician-led organization, with approximately 32,000 employees and more than 1,800 employed physicians, Geisinger leverages an estimated $12.7 billion positive annual impact on the Pennsylvania and New Jersey economies. Repeatedly recognized nationally for integration, quality and service, Geisinger has a long-standing commitment to patient care, medical education, research and community service. For more information, visit www.geisinger.org, or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Highmark employee addresses crowd regarding opioid usage and dangers.

For media inquiries:

Geisinger:
Marc Stempka
570-214-3091
mstempka@geisinger.edu

Highmark:
Anthony Matrisciano
570-200-6310
Anthony.Matrisciano@highmarkhealth.org