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Letter: BlueCross is committed to curbing opiate abuse

BlueCross is committed to curbing opiate abuse

The News reported recently that an Erie County Task Force has been formed to combat the opioid epidemic in Western New York. This move is an important step toward curbing this increasingly fatal addiction.

As a pediatrician, I have witnessed firsthand the devastating effect of opiate abuse on individuals, families and our community.

This issue has been a major focus of BlueCross BlueShield over the last several years. In 2013, we partnered with more than 50 organizations on a public awareness campaign titled, “Pain Killers Kill.” This campaign was reintroduced last year to address the escalating heroin death rate.

We are working with Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County commissioner of health, to support the task force and approach this issue on three fronts: prevention, early identification and treatment, and ongoing treatment.

Prevention needs to be directed toward people and prescribers. Prescription medications are not the only gateway to opiate addiction, but more than 75 percent of heroin addicts have also used painkillers. As a health plan, we are focused on prescribing trends and the best ways to manage pain when a wisdom tooth is extracted or minor surgery occurs for our members.

Physicians and the public at large need to be better educated and empowered to recognize early signs of abuse and have tools available to intervene at that time.

Finally, we need to support individuals through their recovery.

It will take regionwide collaboration and coordination to effectively deal with this growing problem, and this is an important step in that direction. At BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, we fully support this effort.

Thomas Schenk, M.D.

Senior Vice President

Chief Medical Officer

BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York