Delaware addiction / overdose initiatives receive major financial support

Highmark Delaware presented more than $1-million in grant support to opioid and overdose programs Thursday in Dover

Every 22 hours, on average, someone in Delaware dies of an overdose.

Saving lives, getting people into housing and changing perceptions are still challenges, years into the opioid crisis.

Thursday, January 16, 2020, eight organizations that are involved in combating the epidemic received a share of more than $1 million from Highmark Delaware Blue Cross Blue Shield's donor-advised fund, BluePrints for the Community. The presentation took place in the Dover office of Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long.

atTAcK addiction will be able to expand its campaign to distribute the overdose-reversing medication Naloxone, as it hopes to develop a housing program in Sussex County similar to the one in New Castle County.

The group, as well as others, continue to try to fight stigma - or, as board member David Humes prefers to call it, "perception."

Humes' son died of an overdose in 2012.

"This isn't a choice. And if you do want to say it's a choice that they made as a 17-year-old or 18-year-old, I don't want to live with the choices I made as a 17-year-old the rest of my life," Humes said.

The Bellevue Cause Community Network, meanwhile, is looking to engage young people to talk about how they and their loved ones may have been personally affected by the crisis, and to give them an outlet to spread their messages.

"I am myself a recovering addict, so I'm learning to be able to be comfortable with that and destigmatize my own self, to realize that I got through it," Director Scott Michels said.

Other initiatives that will receive support from Highmark Delaware are Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware, Friendship House, Jewish Family Services of Delaware, the National Council on Agricultural Life and Labor Research Fund (which will hire a full-time opioid outreach specialist), Sussex County Health Coalition and Triad Addiction Recovery Services.

"As we look ahead to 2020, Highmark will be tracking the progress of these programs as well as focusing intently on reducing stigma associated with the disorder - a goal that will help more people access treatment , return to their families and the workforce, and make a successful long term recovery," Highmark Delaware President Nick Moriello said.

Highmark's own efforts also involve finding alternatives to opioids for its members who face pain-related issues and reducing the length of an opioid prescription for a patient.

“Effective pain management without the need for opioids, and safe judicious opioid prescribing only when necessary and in small quantities helps reduce risk to patients and minimizes having spare opioids around the house when the episode is over,” Highmark Vice President and Executive Medical Director Caesar DeLeo said. 

"We are going to make a difference," Hall-Long said.

Reporter - Anchor

Mark Fowser is a veteran journalist in Delaware.