Articles

Fighting the Opioid Epidemic in Human Terms

December 7, 2019


[???] NARRATOR: Each and every day,
nearly 120 people die from opioid-related drug overdoses. Twenty percent of patients who are
given a ten-day prescription for opioids are still hooked on opioids
a year later, and 80% of heroin users started off
by misusing prescription opioids. Those are the statistics. But the opioid epidemic
is about more than statistics; it’s about people. It’s about lives
that are ruined or cut short, and families that are ripped apart. The opioid epidemic
is an unprecedented threat that does not care about your race,
your age, or your income. It does not care who you are
or where you live. My self-worth was below,
below, below – like, my basement had another basement;
the basement had a trap door, so my bottom – it’s like, infinite. The guy that I met in high school, he started stealing
his grandfather’s pain pills. I started using drugs with him. I had found out I was pregnant. They say that addiction
is one of the only things that can kind of override
the maternal instinct. That is completely true. It’s one thing for me
to go through withdrawals, but I never wanted my kid
to go through withdrawal. NARRATOR: Aetna is committed
to helping lead the fight against opioid misuse and abuse. So, we are attacking the problem
on three fronts: we discourage doctors from prescribing
opioids when they are not needed. We encourage pain treatments
that do not involve opioids, and we promote
alternative treatments for people who find themselves
addicted to opioids. RICK DUBIEL: As many people die
from opioid-related issues as died in the entire
Vietnam War. I think Aetna has been a real thought
leader in addressing opioid addiction. We created an enterprise-wide
opioid task force to address the issue to bring to bear all resources
throughout the company. NARRATOR: We are working to prevent
opioid misuse in the first place. By imposing limits on initial
prescriptions for patients, we are looking to cut inappropriate
opioid prescriptions in half. Through our super prescriber
interventions, we have identified and educated
over 2,000 physicians and dentists with high rates
of prescribing opioids. We help members find alternatives
through our Doc Find search tool, that lets members identify providers
who offer pain treatments without opioids. We also offer coverage for Exparel, a non-opioid pain medication
for wisdom tooth extractions. Roughly ten percent of the patients
who will have an acute surgical procedure will remain on opioids
three to six months after their surgery. If you calculate that against the number
of procedures in the United States, that would be three million new persistent
opioid users last year alone. NARRATOR: Our work takes us into the heart
of our member’s communities. The Aetna Foundation has committed
to giving more than six million dollars to fund state and local projects
combatting the opioid epidemic. And when prevention isn’t enough, we are there to help our members
on the path to recovery. Aetna’s neonatal abstinence program
supports women whose babies are at risk for opioid withdrawal
in Kentucky and West Virginia. KRISTEN BOWLES:
When you identify a mother who is using, we get her into treatment if –
if need be. We follow her
throughout her pregnancy, and then once the baby is born,
we enroll the baby in the program as well. We kind of work as
a social worker as well, if they need help with resources
in the community. Some of them don’t have transportation
to get to their appointments, so I’ll set the transportation up. NARRATOR: Aetna was the first national
payer to wave copays for NARCAN, which can reverse
opioid overdoses. We have donated NARCAN kits
and training in several states. In 2018, Aetna launched
the Guardian Angel program to reach out to members who have just
suffered an opioid-related overdose. You do need to reach out right away
because if they have overdosed once, more than likely,
they are going to overdose again. And if they have not received
any type of support or any type of engagement since
that overdose, more than likely, they are using again. NARRATOR: We do all of this
because we recognize that we’re not dealing with
just a drug problem; we’re dealing with people’s lives. If I have a big insurance
company behind me, and believing in me, and giving me a chance,
like – why not take this chance, and this opportunity
and run with it? JESSICA:
You can tell they have hearts; they actually want to help
drug-addicted mothers. I’m here today because
Aetna cares about me.

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