Press Releases

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Highmark fights opioid stigma, promotes workplace recovery with Shatterproof

PITTSBURGH (January 7, 2020) — Highmark announced that its employer-based members have access to new virtual education and advocacy tools that combat stigma associated with opioid use disorder (OUD) and promote recovery in the workplace. These new resources, which are a value-added service for Highmark group customers in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia, are offered in collaboration with Shatterproof. Shatterproof is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to reversing the addiction crisis in the U.S.

"Across the communities that we serve, we found that stigma associated with opioid use disorder is widespread," says Highmark president Deb Rice-Johnson. "And yet, despite that stigma, we found that people want to help someone who is struggling with opioid dependence. Our collaboration with Shatterproof will help fight stigma so that opioid use disorder is viewed as a chronic disease, rather than a moral failing. It will also equip workplaces and our members with the knowledge and resources to start a conversation about opioids and help those in need."

Through Shatterproof, Highmark's employer-based members can engage in brief, interactive education modules that explore the science of opioid use disorder; environmental and genetic risk factors; the dangers of opioids; signs, symptoms and evidence-based treatment options; ways to help individuals and families challenged by OUD; and success stories of individuals who are in recovery.

These modules, which take around five minutes each to complete, also provide supplemental videos, fact sheets and other evidence-based resources for those who want a deeper dive on each subject.

"As the opioid crisis has evolved, so has our response," says Dr. Caesar DeLeo, vice president and executive medical director of strategic initiatives for Highmark. "We remain committed to helping the members and communities that we serve at all stages — from fighting stigma, to preventing dependence, to accessing treatment, to promoting long-term recovery that allows individuals to return to their family lives and the workforce."

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The collaboration with Shatterproof is a response to the results of a 2019 community survey that Highmark conducted in each of its core health insurance markets in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia to better understand the public's attitudes toward and experiences with opioid dependence. In each of Highmark's core markets, more than 80 percent of survey respondents said that opioid dependence is mostly or somewhat the fault of the person. Additionally, more than three-quarters of respondents in all markets said that it is important for them to encourage friends, family members or acquaintances to seek care for opioid dependence.

Substance use disorders have wide-ranging consequences for employers, creating challenges related to decreased workplace safety and productivity, increased health care costs, absenteeism, turnover and a smaller pool of available talent. Substance use disorders have an estimated economic impact of more than $400 billion annually in the U.S., according to the National Safety Council (NSC). Large U.S. employers spent more than $2.5 billion annually in recent years on treatment for OUD and opioid overdoses. More than two-third of individuals with OUD are in the workforce, according to the NSC.

The collaboration with Shatterproof continues Highmark's leadership in responding to the opioid crisis with a comprehensive approach that emphasizes primary prevention, safe prescribing and community supports.

Highmark has implemented a progressively intensive strategy to address the opioid crisis. The first component focuses on prevention by offering effective, non-pharmaceutical pain management therapies at the site of care. The second component of Highmark's strategy emphasizes safe opioid utilization through new evidence-based medication policies, as well as ongoing monitoring and educational efforts for both members and prescribers. Highmark uses a data-driven approach to monitor members' prescribing patterns and identify potentially unsafe use of opioids and other controlled substances. The third component centers on identifying members with opioid use disorder and linking them with high-quality, accessible treatment programs. Through these efforts, Highmark has reduced its members' use and duration of use of opioids.

Throughout the past three years, Highmark and the Highmark Foundation have provided $3 million to community organizations and programs fighting the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia. Recently, Highmark's Financial Investigations and Provider Review Team was honored with the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association's Excellence in Public Awareness Award for its Opioid Epidemic Education Program. Through that program, more than 6,500 students, parents and educators in western PA have been empowered with knowledge and resources to respond to opioid dependence in their communities.

About Highmark Inc.
One of America's leading health insurance organizations and an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Highmark Inc. (the Health Plan) and its affiliated health plans (collectively, the Health Plans) work passionately to deliver high-quality, accessible, understandable, and affordable experiences, outcomes, and solutions to customers. As the fourth-largest overall Blue Cross Blue Shield-affiliated organization, Highmark Inc. and its Blue-branded affiliates proudly cover the insurance needs of 4.5 million members in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia. Its diversified businesses serve group customer and individual needs across the United States through dental insurance, vision care and other related businesses. For more information, visit

For more information, contact:

David Golebiewski
Highmark Health