Press Releases

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Highmark to launch first technology-enabled Opioid treatment program in West Virginia

Parkersburg, W.Va. (February 20, 2020) — Highmark West Virginia announced today that its members now have access to a comprehensive, technology-enabled opioid use disorder (OUD) program that is the first of its kind in the state and one of the first of its kind in the nation. The program, offered in partnership with Bright Heart Health, is designed to extend OUD treatment in rural and underserved areas and address a critical shortage of available medication–assisted treatment (MAT) therapy.

"MAT therapy is considered the gold standard of care for opioid use disorder, but there are many MAT 'deserts' across West Virginia," says Dr. Caesar DeLeo, vice president and executive medical director of strategic initiatives for Highmark. "In these areas, patients have extremely limited access to evidence-based OUD treatment and may face significant wait times or transportation challenges. Clinicians are overextended. Through this program, we will be able to partner with clinicians so that our members receive the kind of comprehensive, accessible OUD treatment that puts them on a path to long-term recovery."

Members can access services and meet on-demand with medical staff and counselors through a smart phone, tablet, or computer. Following an initial intake and assessment process, members are connected to a multidisciplinary care team that includes a physician, therapist, case manager, care manager and a wellness coach. The program offers individualized treatment plans and MAT that allows individuals to stop abusing opioids without experiencing powerful drug cravings or severe withdrawal symptoms. With the member’s permission, Bright Heart Health keeps the member’s care team updated on their progress and shares performance metrics.

Members may access Bright Heart Health services via self-referral or through a warm hand-off, a process of transitioning a patient with a substance use disorder from an intercept point, such as an emergency department, to a treatment provider once the patient is stable.

More than 90 percent of patients are retained in OUD treatment one month after beginning services, according to Bright Heart Health. More than 90 percent of patients are negative for opioids within 90 days of beginning treatment, and more than 85 percent are negative for other stimulants and sedatives. Health related costs are reduced by $20,000 annually when opioid dependent patients are on MAT.

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

"We are excited about the partnership and the opportunity to work with Highmark," says Jon Ciampi, president of Bright Heart Heath. "Highmark is proactive in addressing the needs of their members, and recognizing barriers patients face when seeking care. Through this relationship, and the Highmark network, we hope to reach individuals who have been unable to access care due to location or other barriers."

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

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.

Throughout the past three years, Highmark and the Highmark Foundation have provided some $3 million to community organizations and programs fighting the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware.

As part of its continued commitment to address the opioid epidemic and in conjunction with broader national and local efforts to fight substance use disorder, Blue Cross Blue Shield companies across the country are launching the Substance Use Resource Center, which will include a call center and dedicated web site. For individuals seeking treatment for a substance use disorder, navigating treatment options and knowing how to find care they can trust is a daunting task. The Substance Use Resource Center was developed to help those impacted by substance use find quality-based resources for care close to home from a source they can trust.

About Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia serves approximately 325,000 members through the company's health care benefits business and hundreds of thousands of additional members through the BlueCard® program. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of West Virginia holds the largest share of the commercial market, and more West Virginians carry a Blue Cross Blue Shield card than any other insurance carrier in the state. With offices in Parkersburg, Charleston and Wheeling, Highmark West Virginia employs more than 700 people and serves as a key economic driver in the state with its total economic impact reaching $262 million. Highmark West Virginia is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, visit

For more information, contact

Cathy McAlister
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia