'The war will continue': Highmark Delaware commits more resources toward battling opioid addiction

Highmark Delaware announced Friday an RFP of up to $1 million to combat opioid addiction

Lives are being saved, and are changing for the better... but too many lives are still being lost to opioid overdose, and a Delaware health insurer plans to step up its commitment to reduce the toll addiction takes on families.

Highmark announced Friday a request for proposals through its Blueprints for the Community Fund. Up to $1 million could be made available for organizations that are addressing the addiction problem.

"The war will continue," Highmark Health VP and Executive Medical Director Dr. Caesar DeLeo said. "Over the past year we have seen an increase in the rate of members diagnosed, and this is important because diagnosis is the first step in treatment."

"We are committed to the long term recovery of our members and our communities, and to preventing others from having to endure similar challenges in the future," DeLeo added.

According to Highmark Delaware, it provided a total of $325,000 grants in 2018 to four organizations that are on the front lines of the opioid crisis.

"This has touched everyone in our community, the members that we serve and the places where we live," Highmark Delaware President Nick Moriello said. "We just want to do our part to do what we can to save lives and address this crisis."

People who have lost loved ones to addiction as well as members of Delaware's Behavioral Health Consortium, Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long and Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Director Elizabeth Romero welcomed Highmark's announcement.

"I think today is a testimony to how we're addressing the stigma, the fact that folks at this high a level and with level of investment tells us the importance of it," Dr. Sandra Gibney said. Dr. Gibney periodically visits neighborhoods to distribute doses of the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone - medications made possible in part by Highmark's support.

The insurer also said its own strategy involves promoting alternatives to opioids for pain relief such as massage therapy, yoga, acupuncture or homeopathy, and safe prescription and monitoring when opioid medications are appropriate for a patient.

Highmark Delaware will host an information session on its RFP Wednesday May 29th at 10 a.m. at the Community Services Building, 100 West 10th Street in Wilmington.

A few days before that, Dr. Gibney plans to be knocking on doors as part of her continuing Naloxone outreach effort.

Reporter - Anchor

Mark Fowser is a veteran journalist in Delaware.