Philadelphia, PA — Statement from Daniel J. Hilferty, president and CEO of Independence Health Group, on the declaration of the opioid crisis as a public health emergency.
“Opioid abuse is the worst drug crisis in American history and the tragic epidemic is only growing in our region. Each day, thousands of people begin to misuse prescription opioids and many of them will join the millions of Americans already suffering from addiction. Tragically, many will also die. Almost 1,700 people in southeastern Pennsylvania died in 2016 from an opioid overdose. Recent data published by The Philadelphia Inquirer from county coroners and medical examiners found a 50 percent increase in overdose deaths so far this year. Philadelphia alone is on track for 1,200 overdose deaths this year, 300 more than last year. Those figures are stunning, tragic, and unacceptable.
I see the toll of this epidemic every day in my role as CEO of the region’s leading health insurer, and at Independence, we are committed to turning the tide. Since 2014, we have been keenly focused on prevention and treatment of this crisis and our efforts continue to intensify. As a result of our actions, inappropriate opioid use among members has been reduced by nearly 30 percent.
Steps taken by Independence:
- Restrict most initial low-dose opioid prescriptions to no more than five days. We are confident this will reduce the risk for addiction as well as decrease the amount of unused opioids in American homes.
- Promote Centers for Disease Control prescribing guidelines which inform doctors which patients receive opioids outside of those guidelines so they can take action.
- Cover methadone treatment with no copays for in-network providers as well as the most commonly prescribed medication-assisted treatments (combining counseling and behavioral treatments with medication). Independence also covers naloxone, used to revive overdose victims, and we helped local emergency squads to purchase more of this life-saving medication.
- The Independence Blue Cross Foundation, through its Supporting Treatment and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Initiative, supports abuse and recovery awareness efforts, community-based opioid abuse treatment and prevention efforts including drug take back initiatives and funding research to advance hospital programs that connect overdose victims to immediate recovery resources.
We are encouraged to see our government face this epidemic head on. Resources for prevention, access to quality treatments, and elimination of the stigma around addiction are critical. Addiction knows no boundaries. It affects people of all ages, races and backgrounds. Every single life lost is heartbreaking, and the pain in our communities is devastating. Every single life lost is a tragedy.”
Editor’s note: Visit our website for resources to help support individuals and families dealing with substance abuse and read more about what the Independence Blue Cross Foundation is doing to fight opioid abuse.
Donna Crilley Farrell