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Addressing the Opioid Public Health Emergency in Oklahoma

Dec. 08, 2017

Our members, along with their families, friends and communities, have felt the impact of the opioid crisis. In the United States, 91 people die every day from an opioid overdose according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On October 26, 2017, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK), we are taking this crisis and our role in addressing it very seriously. We care deeply for the health and well-being of our more than 768,000 members.

We believe our greatest impact can be helping our members on the proper use of prescription opioid medication, building on the relationships we already have with our members, care providers, pharmacists and communities.

Working with our health care partners and members in Oklahoma, we aim to:

  • Identify: Use the best data available to identify members who may be at risk of opioid addiction and abuse.
  • Partner to Prevent: Work with doctors, other health care professionals, and community partners (including first responders and government health agencies) to prevent or reduce the risk of addiction and abuse.
  • Coordinate Care: Improve the coordination of care for our members in their battle with opioid dependence.
  • Educate: Conduct ongoing education and outreach about the opioid crisis. This includes treatment options, local support organizations and providers that individuals can turn to for themselves, family and friends.

BCBSOK has several programs designed to meet these goals and address the opioid crisis in the communities where our members live, work and play. You can find out more below and we will be sharing more information about these as they continue to be developed and rolled out.

Controlled Substance Integration (CSI)

The BCBSOK CSI program brings together pharmacists, doctors, special investigations staff, behavioral health specialists and case managers. They work to identify what may lead to drug abuse and help improve member health and wellness. A pilot expansion of the CSI program uses data on providers, including the average doses of pain reliever opioid medications prescribed to a member over time. If the prescriptions from a single provider are deemed to be too much, we will work directly with the provider. We will offer guidance supported by the CDC about non-opioid drugs and other resources.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

In addition to behavioral therapy, there’s also the option of using medication for treatment. To make this option easier to access, we have removed the requirement for providers to seek prior authorization when prescribing medications that help relieve the withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings for opioids. We continue to explore ways to partner with behavioral health and clinical experts to improve access to care, avoiding delays in therapy, and stay current with treatments.

Community Support and Integration

BCBSOK partners closely with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and their ongoing efforts to address the opioid crisis in communities across the country. Tackling this epidemic requires the efforts of an entire community, and we’re doing our part. BCBSOK actively promotes National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day in our communities twice a year – part of a nationwide effort sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Education and Policy

BCBSOK continues to work with policymakers at the national and local levels to find solutions to the opioid crisis and fund educational programming for care professionals and the public.