Aetna Foundation's grant is to the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition.
In 2017, there were more than 70,000 American deaths from opioid overdoses reported the largest number in a single year to date, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Virginia Department of Health declared the state’s opioid epidemic a public health emergency in 2016. In Virginia, emergency department visits for heroin overdoses from January to September 2016increased more than 85% compared to the same timeframe in 2015.
CVS Health has an ongoing commitment to help address the opioid epidemic in the state and nationally. The funding the Aetna Foundation is providing will help the Coalition build a model that will allow law enforcement officials to serve as a community resource for overdose victims. Specifically, the Coalition will aim to connect non-fatal overdose victims to a support system before they are discharged from local Valley Health System hospitals. To build this support system, the Coalition will create multidisciplinary teams formed by key community stakeholders, including a law enforcement officer, case manager and counselor. The Coalition will also train a Peer Recovery Specialist, an individual in recovery who knows first-hand what it’s like to suffer from addiction, to serve on the team and support non-fatal overdose victims.
“Over the last year, we have worked with local organizations that are making strides to help combat the opioid epidemic in their communities. From state government agencies to hospital associations, grassroots organizations and now local law enforcement, one thing that has been abundantly clear is that while there is no singular playbook for combatting the opioid crisis, we have to look at every player as a valuable asset in the fight,” said Dr. Garth Graham, president of the Aetna Foundation. “We hope our efforts in Virginia will help us build a model that other states can use to equip local law enforcement to play a key role in this fight.”
“We know that we are facing a serious battle when it comes to fighting the opioid crisis that has already impacted too many families in our state,” said Lauren Cummings, executive director for the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition. “The support from CVS Health through the Aetna Foundation will help us build a model grounded in compassion that will help us save more lives in Virginia.”
By working together through this cross-sectional partnership, the Coalition plans to take an effective and compassionate approach to treatment and recovery, while also cutting down on costs to the judicial system, preventing front-line burnout of first responders and reducing law enforcement and first responder costs.
“Virginia has made progress in combatting the overdose crisis over the last several years, but we know there is more work to be done,” said Dr. Carey. “Tapping into one of our best resources, our men and women in local law enforcement, will move our efforts even closer to the frontline and will allow us to help save more lives moving forward.”
CVS Health will announce funding by the Aetna Foundation to additional states in coming months, as part the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to building healthier communities. These grants are in addition to the previously awarded $1 milliongrants by the Aetna Foundation that are already supporting organizations in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida to address the opioid epidemic locally.
These state-based grants are an extension of a larger company-wide, multi-pronged response to the nation’s growing opioid epidemic. As part of this commitment, CVS Health has increased access to safe medication disposal, allowing patients to properly dispose of unused opioids and other medications, by installing disposal units in 32 CVS Pharmacy locations and 70 community-based law enforcement offices across Virginia. Together, these units have collected nearly 37,000 pounds of unwanted medication in the state. The company has also established a standing order to dispense the opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone to CVS Pharmacy patients without an individual prescription in 48 states, including Virginia. And, the company’s opioid abuse prevention program, Pharmacists Teach, has reached more than 13,000 students and parents across the state. CVS Health has committed to reaching an additional 250,000 students and parents nationally through the program, bringing the total number of community participants reached to more than 655,000 by the end of this year.
Previously, both CVS Health and Aetna have focused on a comprehensive clinical strategy to support increased access to non-opioid pain treatment options, reduce inappropriate opioid prescribing and increase the use of effective, proven medications to treat opioid use disorder.
The state-based grants are part of a $100 million commitment by CVS Health and its affiliates to making community health and wellness central to the company’s charge for a better world. The new Building Healthier Communities initiative, which will be funded over five years by CVS Health and the CVS Health and Aetna Foundations, builds upon the outstanding tradition of community investment by CVS Health and Aetna and helps to advance CVS Health’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health.