Highmark donates $325,000 to programs fighting epidemic

Last week, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware announced four grants totalling $325,000 to four community organizations working to fight the opioid epidemic.

“All of us have been touched in some way by this epidemic,” said Tim Constantine, president of Highmark Delaware. “No one is immune from it. We also believe no one organization or entity can fight it alone.”

The grant was divided between four organizations. Attack Addiction, a non-profit whose mission is to “educate and bring awareness of addiction as a disease, rather than the stigma that is suffered in shame by the person with the disease and their loved ones,” received a $50,000 grant to fill an emergency need for naloxone.

David Humes, a board member for the group, said the grant will help those emergency services departments that otherwise could not afford the life-saving overdose-reversing drug.

“More naloxone will save more lives. First, save the life. Where there is life, there is hope.”

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware received a $100,000 grant to support them as they continue their Strategic Prevention Framework—Partnership for Success (SPF-PFS) community programs around the state.

John Wellons, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Delaware, said the organization has 44 locations statewide.

“We’ve provided prevention programming and youth development opportunities to nearly 24,000 youth in 2017, and we’ll continue to do so in 2018,” he said, noting that they focus on teenagers most at risk.

A $75,000 grant went to Gaudenzia Inc., a non-profit organization providing addiction treatment and recovery services. The grant will help support expansion of its programs in New Castle County, including a new facility in Claymont.

“Only here in Delaware this kind of cooperation happens,” said Perry Patel, COO of Gaudenzia. “This crisis is going to take a village.”

The Sussex County Health Coalition received $100,000 to support their work with 27 community partners to develop a community-based comprehensive plan to address the opioid epidemic in Seaford.

“It is a long-term marathon,” said Peggy Geisler, executive director of the Sussex County Health Coalition. “We appreciate the starting gun from Highmark. We are here for the long haul. We hope all of you will join us, and I’m honored to be in the race.”

Highmark, which has been serving the state of Delaware for more than 80 years, serves more than 450,000 members, most of who reside within the state.

The grants were awarded through Highmark’s BluePrints for the Community, a grant program to help address the issues faced by Delaware’s uninsured and under-served populations.

“Since 2012, Highmark of Delaware has committed more than $18 million in support of over 200 health-related initiatives, organizations and programs in our state,” said Constantine. “Since the fund was established in 2007, we’ve awarded more than $12 million from this fund to nonprofit organizations in Delaware.”

Dr. Karyl T. Rattay, M.D., M.S., director of the Division of Public Health of the Delaware Department of Health & Social Services, said it is imperative that organizations work together to fight the opioid epidemic.

“This crisis is completely devastating to our state, to our nation,” she said. “This past year, 2016, we had a total of 264 lives lost in Delaware to this crisis. When we really began looking at our numbers in 2009, that was the first time we first saw more deaths from drug overdoses than motor vehicle accidents. We have almost tripled the number of overdose deaths since that time. This truly devastating crisis is very complex. There is no one entity that can resolve this alone.”

Calling the epidemic “the public health crisis of our generation,” Rattay said she was struck by something DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Walker had said recently about the crisis.

“‘Each life lost leaves a ripple effect through a workplace, a neighborhood, and especially within those individual families.’

“My hope is that these Community BluePrint grants will have those same ripple effects, but this time as a force for good across our state,” Rattay said.

To learn more about Attack Addiction, visit www.attackaddiction.org. To learn more about Gaudenzia, visit www.gaudenzia.org. To learn more about the Sussex County Health Coalition, visit www.healthysussex.org. To learn more about the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware, visit www.bgclubs.org.

Those seeking support services for addiction should visit www.HelpIsHereDE.com.