CareFirst Contributing Nearly $600,000 In Western Md. To Combat Opioid, Substance Misuse

Grants part of overall $2.1 million investment throughout region

Hagerstown, MD (October 24, 2018) - In 2017, 157 individuals died in Western Maryland from an opioid-related overdose. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Maryland has the fourth-highest rate of opioid-related overdose deaths in the nation, and in March 2017, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in response to the opioid epidemic.

Today, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst), the region's largest not-for-profit health insurer, announced grants totaling $582,000 to two organizations in Western Maryland in support of programs working to combat the opioid crisis.

Over two years, the following organizations expect to serve up to 91,000 individuals in Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties:

  • Association for the Public Defender of Maryland: $382,000 in support of the Diversion Linkages Pilot Project, that will provide outpatient treatment including screenings, assessments, treatment plans, referrals, case management and peer support for justice-involved individuals; and,
  • Western Maryland Health System Foundation: $200,000 to establish a community-based crisis center that will provide outpatient screening, assessment, intervention and referral services.

The grants are part of a larger, $2.1 million investment in 11 community health organizations working to combat substance use disorders, including the opioid crisis, in Maryland, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. More information about all grantees is available on CareFirst’s website.

"We’re still grappling with a substance use disorder crisis nationwide and in our communities that is destroying families and ruining lives," said CareFirst President & CEO Brian D. Pieninck. "CareFirst has committed to helping find ways to address this crisis in care by partnering with many of the community-based health clinics that are on the front lines of this battle, including in Western Maryland."

Paul DeWolfe, Public Defender of Maryland, said: "Combating the opioid crisis requires innovative efforts and health care leaders like CareFirst. Punishing addiction through the criminal justice system has not stemmed the problem, and we look forward to collaborating with CareFirst and other partners to provide access to community-based treatment for our justice involved clients."

Karen Johnson, Chief Development Officer & Executive Director of Western Maryland Health System Foundation, said: "Western Maryland Health System is proud to receive this CareFirst grant to help combat the opioid crisis and substance abuse that is affecting our community in Western Maryland and the surrounding counties. With this grant we will be able to provide tools and resources to those who are battling this crisis. Together with CareFirst, we will make an impact."

Meanwhile, CareFirst also has taken several steps in the past year to address opioid and substance use disorders among its fully insured members. Among them, CareFirst:

  • Partnered with intensive outpatient programs that provide highly individualized treatment, including relapse prevention, coping strategies and medication-assisted treatment;
  • Developed a Behavioral Health and Substance Use Disorder program through which primary care providers, nurses and behavioral health providers can refer CareFirst members with co-occurring medical and behavioral health disorders;
  • Introduced new requirements related to opioid prescription quantity and duration limits; and,
  • Enhanced its prescription drug-monitoring program to allow pharmacists to notify providers of the member’s utilization history and work with them to identify and address treatment concerns.

About CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield

In its 80th year of service, CareFirst, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health care company which, through its affiliates and subsidiaries, offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to 3.2 million individuals and groups in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia. In 2017, CareFirst invested more than $33 million to improve overall health, and increase the accessibility, affordability, safety and quality of health care throughout its market areas. To learn more about CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, visit our website at or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn or Instagram.