Dr. Ginny Calega, vice president of Medical Affairs for Independence Blue Cross, testified on December 2 before the Philadelphia City Council’s Committee on Public Health and Human Services to support a bill that could improve treatment for opioid overdose survivors.
Calega supported a bill that will authorize the Health Department to collect additional information from local hospitals regarding the interventions and outcomes associated with nonfatal opioid overdoses. Calega testified that the bill would ensure that the Health Department has greater insights into warm hand-off programs in the city, providing more actionable information regarding how well local hospitals are transitioning overdose survivors into treatment.
In her testimony, Calega outlined some of the actions Independence has taken to address the opioid crisis, including:
Strengthening warm hand-off programs
The Independence Blue Cross Foundation collaborated with the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol commission to examine emergency department warm hand-off outcomes in local Bucks County hospitals. Independence commissioned a report that identified high performing facilities and a series of best practice recommendations based on qualitative research. Many of these recommendations are now being implemented thanks to a $650,000 grant awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs in July of this year.
Changing Physician Prescribing Habits
Working with doctors and medical partners, Independence has seen a 46 percent reduction in the number of members prescribed opioids over the last four years. This amounts to 100,000 fewer people using opioids.
Improving Treatment Options
Independence has removed member cost-sharing for certain forms of naloxone and lifted prior authorization requirements for members seeking Medication Assisted Treatment.
Supporting Community Efforts on Awareness and Education
The Independence Blue Cross Foundation has awarded more than $2 million in grants to national and local nonprofits that provide community-based treatment and prevention programs throughout Southeast Pennsylvania. This has included the regional opioid anti-stigma campaign called “Someone You Know.”
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