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Highmark launches technology-enabled opioid treatment program in West Virginia

When opioid dependent patients are on medication-assisted treatments, health costs decrease by $20,000 annually, says Bright Heart Health.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

Highmark West Virginia is offering its members access to a technology-enabled opioid use disorder program designed to extend  treatment to rural and underserved areas and address the shortage of available medication–assisted treatment therapy.

The aim of medication-assisted treatment therapy is to allow individuals to stop abusing opioids without experiencing powerful drug cravings or severe withdrawal.

The therapy has also been shown to reduce health costs. When opioid-dependent patients are on medication-assisted treatments, health-related costs decrease by $20,000 annually, according to Bright Heart health, which is working in partnership with Highmark.

With the member's permission, Bright Heart Health keeps the member's care team updated on their progress and shares performance metrics.

HOW THE PROGRAM WORKS

Members have access to Bright Heart Health services via self-referral or through a warm hand-off, a process of transitioning a patient with a substance use disorder from an intercept point, such as an emergency department, to a treatment provider once the patient is stable.

Following an initial intake and assessment process, they are connected to a multidisciplinary care team consisting of a physician, therapist, case manager, care manager and wellness coach.

Services with medical staff and counselors are through a smartphone, tablet, or computer. 

WHY THIS MATTERS

More than 90% of patients are negative for opioids within 90 days of beginning treatment, and more than 85% are negative for other stimulants and sedatives.

More than 90% of patients are retained in opioid use disorder treatment one month after beginning services, according to Bright Heart Health.

THE LARGER TREND

The teleaddiction program, which Highmark called the first of its kind in the state and one of the first of its kind in the U.S., continues the company's response to the opioid crisis.

Last month, Highmark announced new virtual education and advocacy tools that are available to employer-based members, to combat the stigma associated with opioid use disorder and to promote recovery in the workplace.

These new resources are a value-added service for Highmark group customers in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and are offered in partnership with Shatterproof, a national nonprofit organization that is combating the addiction crisis.

Throughout the past three years, Highmark and the Highmark Foundation have provided some $3 million to community organizations and programs fighting the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware.

Highmark West Virginia is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Blue Cross Blue Shield companies across the country are launching the Substance Use Resource Center, which will include a call center and dedicated web site.

ON THE RECORD

Jon Ciampi, president of Bright Heart Health said, "Highmark is proactive in addressing the needs of their members, and recognizing barriers patients face when seeking care. Through this relationship, and the Highmark network, we hope to reach individuals who have been unable to access care due to location or other barriers."

"MAT therapy is considered the gold standard of care for opioid use disorder, but there are many MAT 'deserts' across West Virginia," says Dr. Caesar DeLeo, vice president and executive medical director of strategic initiatives for Highmark. "In these areas, patients have extremely limited access to evidence-based OUD treatment and may face significant wait times or transportation challenges. Clinicians are overextended. Through this program, we will be able to partner with clinicians so that our members receive the kind of comprehensive, accessible OUD treatment that puts them on a path to long-term recovery."

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com