BCBS of Tennessee launches efforts to curb state's opioid abuse 'crisis'

Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is increasing efforts to address opioid abuse in the state, as Tennessee ranks second nationally in terms of the number of opioid prescriptions issued, according to a Times Free Press report.

BCBS of Tennessee told members of the state's Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee Tuesday it is taking steps to address the issue. The insurer's CMO Andrea Willis, MD, presented data pertaining to opioid use in Tennessee. An estimated 1,450 residents died from drug overdoses in 2015 and roughly 1,000 babies were born last year to mothers taking potentially harmful doses of painkillers. Dr. Willis said the issue "creates a public health crisis in our state," according to the report.

BCBS of Tennessee's initiatives to cut back opioid use include promoting appropriate pain management techniques and establishing policies to curb overprescribing while making sure patients with chronic pain maintain access to the drugs.

Additionally, the BCBS of Tennessee Health Foundation is granting $1.3 million to the state's 44 counties with the highest instances of opioid abuse to build up anti-drug coalitions, according to the report. The foundation also created an educational, multimedia public awareness campaign called "Count it! Lock it! Drop it! Don't Be an Accidental Drug Dealer."

Other initiatives include expanding access to opioid disposal and Naloxone, a medication commonly used to treat opioid overdoses, according to Times Free Press.  

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