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Capital BlueCross Helps Fight Heroin and Opioid Overdoses in Pennsylvania

By Colin McEvoy on April 15, 2016

Gary Tennis, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, at the state capital in March, honoring police departments and officers for carrying naloxone. (photo courtesy Commonwealth Media Services)

Gary Tennis, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, at the state capital in March, honoring police departments and officers for carrying naloxone. (photo courtesy Commonwealth Media Services)

Capital BlueCross is more than just the leading health insurance company in the Lehigh Valley and central Pennsylvania. They’re also strongly committed to partnering with the communities they serve.

That’s why they’ve stepped up to help combat a major issue facing communities all across Pennsylvania: the growing crisis of heroin and opioid overdoses.

Capital BlueCross has donated $150,000 to police departments in their 21-county service area, including Lehigh and Northampton counties, to ensure that officers are armed with naloxone, a medication that reverses heroin overdoses.

“This contribution means more people will be given a second chance at life,” said Gary D. St. Hilaire, Capital BlueCross President and CEO. “Naloxone has already saved countless lives. They are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends and neighbors in our community. As a company, Capital BlueCross is committed to helping people live healthy lives. This will help put more people on the road to recovery and to a healthier future.”

The donation to purchase naloxone will be distributed to municipal police departments by the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association. Officers will carry naloxone and become trained to administer it on someone experiencing a potentially fatal overdose.

“As district attorney, I believe that preventing drug abuse and helping people beat their addictions is part of the solution to the growing drug abuse crisis,” said Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin. “Capital BlueCross’ commitment to public health and safety in the Lehigh Valley is the kind of community-minded collaborative effort that solves problems and gets things done. Working together, our police will now be able to carry naloxone and save lives.”

Naloxone works by blocking the opioid receptors in the brain and temporarily restoring breathing in someone who has overdosed on heroin or prescription painkillers. It is easily administered by being sprayed into each nostril.

More than 500 overdoses were reversed by officers carrying naloxone in Pennsylvania in the past year, according to Gary Tennis, Secretary with the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

“On behalf of all the people whose lives will be saved by this generous donation, I thank Capital BlueCross,” Tennis said. “They have stepped forward as a leader in fighting the worst overdose death epidemic this state has ever seen. With this money, we have the potential to help not only hundreds of people with the disease of addiction, but the thousands of family members and friends whose lives are also affected.”

Naloxone is not addictive and its only use is to reverse the effects of a fatal opioid drug overdose. More than 500 overdoses were reversed by officers carrying naloxone in Pennsylvania in the past year, according to the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

This donation is just one of several ways Capital BlueCross has stepped up to serve its communities. Earlier this year, it also donated to Project Lifesaver, an effort by the Allentown Police Department to purchase 39 bracelets with tracking technology to assist with the search and rescue of children with autism and other cognitive disorders.

That initiative was came in the wake of the death of five-year-old Jayliel Vega Batista, an autistic child who wandered away from a New Year’s Eve party in east Allentown. His body was found two days later in the Lehigh Canal.

“In the wake of the search for Jayliel, the Allentown Police Department and its members wanted to take proactive steps to avoid such tragedies in the future,” said Allentown Police Chief Keith Morris. “I personally want to thank all of those that have generously donated to ensure that bracelets are available for those in need.”

Capital BlueCross has also helped serve the community by supporting economic development through the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). The company is an investor with the organization, and was the presenting sponsor of the LVEDC 2016 Annual Meeting last month. Additionally, Anne Baum, Vice President, Lehigh Valley at Capital BlueCross, joined the LVEDC Board of Directors this year.

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