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How Can New Jersey Win the Fight Against the Opioid Epidemic? We’ve Got Some Ideas That Work


Learn how Horizon BCBSNJ is addressing the opioid epidemic from all angles.

The national opioid epidemic has reached deep into New Jersey’s communities. In 2018, the state suffered at least 3,163 opioid-related deaths – about 400 more than those who died from overdoses in 2017, and over 900 more than those in 2016. At Horizon BCBSNJ, we’re facing this crisis head-on, starting with prevention. Over the past several years, we’ve brought together doctors, pharmacies and patients to drastically reduce the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed to our members and lower unnecessary usage and over-prescribing. These efforts have positioned us as a national leader in preventing opioid use disorder.

From 2013 to 2017, the total number of opioid medications prescribed to commercially insured Horizon BCBSNJ members has declined by 30 percent. And the percentage of Horizon BCBSNJ commercially insured members who filled at least one opioid prescription has decreased by 28 percent. Our members have the highest rate of compliance with CDC-recommended dose and duration guidelines for opioids among all Blue Cross Blue Shield plans nationally.


These gains have been the result of targeted Horizon BCBSNJ programs designed to prevent dependence before it happens.

For example, we are:

Identifying members who are taking high doses of opioids outside of recommended guidelines or seeking opioid prescriptions from multiple prescribers and referring them to behavioral health interventions

Limiting members who have a history of filling multiple prescriptions with several providers to a single pharmacy

Educating prescribers how to identify and reduce high-risk member behaviors

Expanding access to and reimbursing for alternative pain therapies that do not pose the same addiction risk as opioids


Beyond prevention, reversing the opioid epidemic requires a multi-faceted approach.

That’s why Horizon BCBSNJ’s efforts also focus on treatment, recovery and community outreach. From offering urgent appointments for crisis intervention to providing peer specialists who can arrange long-term support, we’re committed to helping our members along their road to recovery by addressing underlying behavioral health issues and improving their overall well-being. In fact, we increased our spending to treat opioid use disorder by 350% since 2013.

Today, we’re working with primary care physicians across the state to identify previously undiagnosed behavioral health issues among our members, and then connect these physicians and their patients, who may have substance use disorders, to treatment providers. In addition, we are working closely with Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, the federal DEA, schools, colleges, grass roots organizations, the cultural community and many others to raise awareness among thousands of New Jersey residents and children to the causes and effects of the opioid epidemic.

New Jersey’s battle against opioid dependence isn’t going to end anytime soon. To help solve this long-term problem, Horizon BCBSNJ is upping our investments in prevention and treatment. Over the next five years, we’re dedicating a substantial part of the savings we’re due as a result of federal tax reform to expand existing programs and create new initiatives that will improve substance use disorder prevention and recovery.


Investing in our members’ health does more than save lives

The costs of fighting opioid dependence are felt by everyone who pays a premium. Winning this fight doesn’t just save lives – it also saves money. By helping people avoid or recover from opioid use disorder, we can save the health care system millions of dollars – which helps make care more affordable for everyone and ultimately enables more people with any kind of health condition to get the care they need.