CVS Health is expanding its efforts to combat the opioid crisis in Virginia. Through the Aetna Foundation, the company pledged a $1 million grant for a program that matches survivors of drug overdoses with a team of people who can support them in their recovery.
The grant will go to the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition to help kick-start its Law Enforcement Overdose Intervention Program.
Just this month, Lauren Cummings, director of the NSVSAC, told us that deaths from opioid overdoses in the northern Valley are up so far this year compared to in 2018.
The program aims to connect overdose survivors with a team that includes a counselor, a law enforcement officer, a case manager and a peer recovery specialist (an individual in recovery.)
“Tapping into one of our best resources, our men and women in local law enforcement, will move our efforts even closer to the frontline and will allow us to save more lives moving forward,” Dr. Daniel Carey, Virginia’s secretary of health and human resources, said as officials announced the grant last week at an event in Winchester.
NSVSAC was formed in 2014, two years before the Virginia Department of Health declared the state’s opioid crisis a public health emergency. The number of fatal opioid overdoses in Virginia rose from fewer than 500 in 2010 to almost 1,140 in 2016. State officials estimate that last year, more than 1,200 Virginians died from overdoses of opioids, including heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioids.
“One thing that has been abundantly clear is that while there is no playbook for combating the opioid crisis, we have to look at every player as a valuable asset in the fight,” said Dr. Garth Graham, president of the Aetna Foundation.
According to a news release from the foundation, the partnership will reduce law enforcement, judicial and other costs while helping to prevent burnout of first responders.
“The support from CVS Health through the Aetna Foundation will help us build a model grounded in compassion that will help us save more lives in Virginia,” said NSVSAC’s executive director, Lauren Cummings.
This is one of several efforts by the pharmaceutical giant to try to curb the nationwide opioid epidemic in recent years.
The company has pledged to donate $100 million over the next five years to its Build Healthier Communities initiative and created its own opioid abuse prevention program, Pharmacists Teach.
In addition, 32 CVS Pharmacy stores in Virginia feature medication disposal units. The company’s Virginia stores also allow pharmacists to dispense the overdose reversal medication naloxone to patients without individual prescriptions.