Taking the Fight to Indiana’s Opioid Epidemic

Taking the Fight to Indiana’s Opioid Epidemic

By Robert W. Hillman, President, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Indiana

“If the statistics weren’t already ominous enough, there are reports Indiana may be undercounting the number of opioid deaths.”


This year marks 75 years that Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has been providing access to healthcare with the goal of improving the lives of people in the communities we serve in Indiana. In our long history, there have been few public health emergencies like the one our state is currently facing with the opioid epidemic.

Addiction, overdose and deaths involving non-medical prescription drug use have risen dramatically during the last decade nationwide. According to a report by the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, between 2011 and 2017 there was a 75 percent increase in the drug overdose death rate in Indiana. In 2017, more than 1,700 Hoosiers experienced fatal overdoses, an all-time high.

And if these statistics weren’t ominous enough, the Indianapolis Star last year reported that the state may be undercounting the number of opioid deaths.

The epidemic’s impact is felt throughout society, from babies born every 25 minutes suffering from opioid withdrawal to workers not being able to pass a drug test in order to get a job.

In January, the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation made a $125,000 grant to Indiana Workforce Recovery, a joint initiative of the Wellness Council of Indiana, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and the office of Governor Eric Holcomb. The goal is to help employers address the opioid epidemic since an estimated two-thirds of people with substance use disorder in Indiana are actively employed.

The Foundation’s grant funded nearly a dozen information and strategy sessions across the state to provide information and resources specifically geared to employers to help them combat the problem in the workplace.

In addition to partnering with the business community, Anthem is also working with care providers to minimize the risk of opioid misuse and enable earlier identification of individuals facing substance use-related conditions.

Our pharmacy home program enables doctors to better monitor access to opioids to prevent overprescribing and facilitate the early identification and treatment for opioid addiction. In addition, Anthem is committed to increasing the number of consumers who receive behavioral health counseling as part of Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT). Through these efforts and more, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Indiana has seen a drop in prescribed opioids in individual and employer-sponsored health plans.

Progress is being made, but an epidemic of this magnitude must continue to be fought on multiple fronts. Anthem will continue to take a leadership role, and we will continue to collaborate with the business community, health care professionals and policymakers to make a positive difference in the lives and communities affected by this public health emergency.

Category Features, Last Word