Press Releases

Monday, August 30, 2021

Highmark observes International Overdose Awareness Day with commemorative light-up of Fifth Avenue Place headquarters, progress in preventing overdoses

  • Highmark reduces opioid overdoses among members, expands access to high-quality treatment, and activates its workforce and the community to fight the epidemic

PITTSBURGH (August 30, 2021) — Highmark’s Fifth Avenue Place headquarters in Downtown Pittsburgh will glow purple on August 31 to commemorate International Overdose Awareness Day. International Overdose Awareness Day is an annual, global event to end overdoses, remember without stigma those who have died, and acknowledge the grief of families and friends left behind.

The commemorative light-up of Fifth Avenue Place is one component of Highmark’s broader recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day, and its comprehensive approach to combat substance use disorder that focuses on primary prevention, safe prescribing, high-quality treatment, community supports and combating stigma.

Through these efforts, Highmark has reduced opioid-related overdoses among its commercial risk, Medicare Advantage and Affordable Care Act members in Pennsylvania by about 20 percent over the past three years.

“The COVID-19 pandemic’s financial, social and healthcare access challenges have hit families across the communities that we serve and across the nation — which is reflected in the record number of overdose-related deaths recorded in the U.S. in 2020,” says Dr. Caesar DeLeo, vice president and executive medical director of strategic initiatives for Highmark. “We remain highly committed to preventing the harms caused by substance abuse and promoting recovery along with our many partners in health care, government, education, business, and social services.”

Harnessing the power of its own team members, Highmark has established a grass-roots organization known as LEARN. LEARN is comprised of more than 600 Highmark, Allegheny Health Network (AHN) and other Highmark companies’ team members who come together to Learn more about substance use disorders; Educate others; Advocate for reforms and effective treatment, and support Recovery and Network amongst themselves, within their communities and organizations to dispel stigma and promote harm reduction.

In addition to driving the Fifth Avenue Place light-up commemoration for International Overdose Awareness Day, LEARN hosted a webinar for Highmark and AHN team members

about substance use disorders and coping with grief and loss, and created a video to pay tribute to loved ones and friends that they have lost.

“In 2021, LEARN has also created a more recovery-friendly workplace, spotlighted the dangers of synthetic opioids, explored the science of addiction, combated stigma, and celebrated professionals in recovery,” says Ashley Potts, a co-founder of LEARN and substance use disorder program manager for Highmark. “We have so many team members who want to be a positive force at work, at home and in the community, and LEARN provides those opportunities through education and advocacy.”

Highmark has also reduced by 23 percent the number of Pennsylvania members who are newly prescribed opioids over the past three years, and increased by 20 percent the number of members who receive medication-assisted treatment (MAT) after being diagnosed with opioid use disorder or after being brought into treatment for opioid use disorder. MAT is high-quality, evidenced-based treatment that supports patients with a multi-disciplinary care team and medications that allow individuals to stop abusing opioids without experiencing powerful drug cravings or severe withdrawal symptoms.

Highmark supports community organizations and programs fighting the opioid epidemic in its core markets. Highmark’s Financial Investigations and Provider Review (FIPR) Team has also engaged more than 10,000 students, parents and educators in western Pennsylvania through its Opioid Epidemic Education Program. The program empowers people 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 more than 6 million members in Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia and New York. Its diversified businesses serve group customer and individual needs across the United States through dental insurance and other related businesses. For more information, visit

For more information, contact

David Golebiewski
Highmark Health