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Highmark West Virginia and PROACT demonstrate results preventing opioid addiction, promoting recovery

Highmark West Virginia and PROACT demonstrate results preventing opioid addiction, promoting recovery

Huntington, W.Va. – During National Recovery Month, Highmark West Virginia and the Provider Response Organization for Addiction Care and Treatment (PROACT) announced results of efforts to address the opioid crisis. At a press conference held at PROACT, an outpatient substance use disorders treatment center in Highmark’s provider network, leaders of both organizations updated the community on progress made in comprehensively managing pain, safely prescribing opioids, and treating individuals who have become addicted.

Highmark continues to make progress in addressing opioid abuse and addiction, responding to its members’ needs with a comprehensive approach that emphasizes primary prevention, safe prescribing, high-quality and accessible addiction treatment, and community support. Through these efforts, Highmark has helped to lower the use and duration of use of opioids, and strengthened services available to individuals and families confronted by drug dependence.

“Opioid addiction and abuse have touched many of the people we know and care about here in West Virginia,” said Jim Fawcett, president for Highmark West Virginia. “Through Highmark’s forward-thinking efforts to combat this epidemic and strong partnerships with local providers of care throughout West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware, we are helping our community recover and heal.”

Throughout the past two years, Highmark West Virginia has lowered overall opioid prescription fills by 23 percent for commercially-insured members in Cabell, Mason and Wayne Counties. Ninety-five percent of Highmark’s commercially-insured members in that tri-county area who were prescribed opioid-based medications for the first time received a week’s supply or less of medication. Two years ago, that rate was about 81 percent.

Highmark focuses on linking members who have opioid use disorder (OUD) with high-quality, accessible treatment programs that use evidence-based medical practice to treat OUD with Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), including suboxone and methadone. About 39 percent of Highmark commercially-insured members with OUD in Cabell, Mason and Wayne Counties were linked with MAT in 2018. That is higher than the 33 percent state average for all individuals diagnosed with OUD, and the U.S. average of 27 percent.

“Highmark is pleased to provide a $10,000 grant to PROACT for its continued work in treating addiction,” said Fawcett.  “We value the work of health care providers like PROACT who serve as our partners.”

In 2017 and 2018, Highmark West Virginia and the Highmark Foundation collectively gave nearly $150,000 toward community organizations and programs fighting the opioid epidemic in West Virginia. These grants and sponsorships support front line efforts including filling an emergency need for naloxone, community-based drug prevention and addiction treatment plans, and rehabilitation and treatment facilities.

Highmark also recognizes the critical role that reducing stigma associated with opioid use disorder plays in helping people access treatment, return to their family lives and the workforce, and make a successful long-term recovery. Highmark surveyed adult community members in each of its core health insurance markets in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware to better understand the public’s attitudes toward and experiences with opioid dependence. The surveys yielded a statistically valid sample and were weighted to be generally reflective of each region’s age and gender demographics.

  • In the Charleston/Huntington West Virginia designated market area, more than four out of every five people (86 percent) said that there is a problem with opioid overuse in their community, and four out of five (79 percent) believe that the health care industry should more closely monitor opioid prescriptions.
  • About six in ten people (57 percent) indicated that they have a friend, family member, or close acquaintance who has suffered from opioid addiction or dependence. Among those who have had someone close to them suffer, about two-thirds (64 percent) said that they did not know about the person’s opioid use before the person developed an addiction or dependence. Two-thirds of people (64 percent) say that the person suffering has sought treatment.
  • Nine in 10 people surveyed in Charleston (91 percent) believe that opioid addiction or dependence is mostly or somewhat the fault of the person using opioids.

PROACT is a collaboration between Cabell Huntington Hospital, Marshall Health, St. Mary’s Medical Center, Thomas Health Systems and Valley Health. All are preferred providers of Highmark in the Huntington/Cabell County area.

“Substance use disorder is a medically recognized disease with no single treatment option that is best-fit for everyone,” said Stephen M. Petrany, MD, chair of the department of family and community health at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and member of the PROACT Board of Directors. “We have taken some very important steps in addressing substance use disorder in our region and state, and it’s worth announcing and celebrating these accomplishments.”

Since PROACT opened last fall, more than 800 people have been assessed and referred to appropriate levels of care. Each month, PROACT has an average of 85 intakes with more than 90 percent coming from Cabell and bordering counties. To help those in recovery find a steady employment and financial security, PROACT launched Creating Opportunities for Recovery Employment (CORE). The CORE program provides resources including career readiness assessment, job search/interview/resume/letter writing advice, job training and placement assistance, and educational opportunities.

PROACT is also working with the state of West Virginia and other states in a pilot program to develop a scorecard for addiction treatment that will be useful in ensuring the highest quality of care in the management of substance use disorder. In recognition of PROACT’s initial success, the Washington, D.C.-based Addiction Policy Forum honored the organization with a 2019 Innovation Now Award.

About Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia serves approximately 325,000 members through the company’s health care benefits business and hundreds of thousands of additional members through the BlueCard® program. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of West Virginia holds the largest share of the commercial market, and more West Virginians carry a Blue Cross Blue Shield card than any other insurance carrier in the state. With offices in Parkersburg, Charleston and Wheeling, Highmark West Virginia employs more than 700 people and serves as a key economic driver in the state with its total economic impact reaching $262 million. Highmark West Virginia is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, visit


PROACT is an outpatient substance use disorders treatment center that brings together behavioral, social and medical resources from the community to provide comprehensive care to those seeking treatment. PROACT offers a variety of treatment avenues including both abstinence-based services as well as Medication Assisted Treatment.  At PROACT, treatment begins on day one with a clinician who will conduct a comprehensive, structured clinical assessment to inform a diagnosis, a recommended plan of care, and to identify social or personal needs requiring further referral.  Individuals entering our service are given timely access to a physician as well as to all other services, which include peer recovery supports, individual and group therapy, career placement and career readiness training, spiritual care and an on-site pharmacy.  Housed in an outpatient medical facility, PROACT serves as a single, regional referral point to assess patients following discharge from local emergency rooms and inpatient detox units and by referral from our quick response teams and other emergency medical response teams. PROACT also accepts self-referrals and referrals from community providers.