When Gov. Tim Walz signed legislation at the end of May aimed at tackling Minnesota’s opioid epidemic by investing more than $20 million a year toward addiction treatment and prevention, it marked the latest step in a period of increased attention from elected officials across the state and the entire country on this critical issue.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, for example, has called for $100 billion in new spending to fight substance abuse, while the Minnesota Department of Health has sounded the alarm over “worrisome” levels of substance abuse-related deaths.
The focus from lawmakers is critical as we continue to push for solutions that will limit abuse, and we at CVS Health believe that continued collaborative action – from the federal and state governments, nonprofit organizations, and the private health care sector all working together – can further help make a difference.
We’re stepping up to help tackle this challenge. In May, CVS Pharmacy completed the rollout of time-delay safes in all 140 locations across the state of Minnesota. We installed this technology to help deter robberies that have been targeting pharmacies – including those involving opioid medications such as oxycodone and hydrocodone – by electronically delaying the time it takes for pharmacy employees to be able to open the safe. State lawmakers and law enforcement leaders have praised these safes for helping keep opioids out of the hands of unauthorized individuals while also maintaining the safety and well-being of pharmacy customers and employees.
Time-delay safes are just one of several steps CVS Health has taken to help tackle prescription drug misuse and abuse in Minnesota. Through a nationwide program in which we install safe medication disposal units in CVS Pharmacy stores and donate additional units to law enforcement agencies, five metric tons of unwanted medication have been collected and safely disposed of in Minnesota alone.
CVS Caremark also helps its clients reduce opioid utilization through coverage limits aligned with the CDC’s Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain. To date, for clients adopting this utilization management criteria, the number of prescriptions covered for more than a seven-day supply decreased by 71.9 percent.
We have also increased access to the opioid overdose drug, naloxone, in 48 states, including Minnesota, to allow patients to obtain the medication without an individual prescription. Today, every CVS Pharmacy location has in-store signage to inform patients about the availability and accessibility of the potentially life-saving drug.
Aetna, a CVS Health company, is also making progress in its five-year plan to help fight opioid addiction through prevention, intervention and patient support programming.
Finally, other CVS Health initiatives are aimed at engaging and educating the communities that we serve. Through our Pharmacists Teach program, CVS pharmacists have helped educate students across the state of Minnesota about the dangers of misusing prescription drugs. Following its initial success, the program has been expanded to provide parents and caregivers with information about commonly misused drugs, help identifying the signs and symptoms of prescription misuse and abuse, and helpful tips and tools to navigate their children’s challenging questions and answers around the topic. In 2018, CVS delivered 134 “Prescription for Parents” presentations across the country, including in Minnesota.
Together, these programs show promise and illustrate the power of collaboration to address the complex challenges posed by drug misuse and abuse. By combining our reach and resources with the insight and expertise of our pharmacists, local health care providers, community organizations, lawmakers and other committed individuals, we are working to make an impact.
But our efforts in helping confront this critical challenge that impacts thousands of Minnesotans is far from complete. CVS Health continues to explore strategies to help address opioid misuse and abuse in Minnesota, and we call on other private-sector entities, organizations and individuals to consider the ways they can help and get involved.
Everyone can play a role in helping to keep our communities healthy and safe.
Thomas M. Moriarty is executive vice president, chief policy and external affairs officer, and general counsel for CVS Health. Moriarty leads the company’s external affairs programs, where he focuses on promoting the company’s role in reshaping a health care industry that is more accessible and affordable, and that delivers better outcomes for patients.
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