BLOOMFIELD, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Cigna will outline steps to help curb the national opioid epidemic among the veteran community in a half-day session today in Washington, D.C. led by David M. Cordani, Cigna president and CEO, with CQ Roll Call. The event will convene members of Congress and national thought leaders to discuss current legislative efforts to reshape the health care system and the impact this will have on preventing drug misuse, with a focus on veterans’ issues. For more information on speakers and agenda, and to watch the live stream of the event, visit here.
“only five years ago, prescription opioid and heroin abuse seemed like a limited issue, touching mostly Appalachia or rural areas of New England. Now it’s a nationwide problem that won’t go away any time soon, and it’s a priority for just about every member of Congress.”
The Roll Call Live event will also feature a discussion about findings from a recently completed study by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), sponsored by Cigna, which explores how medical practitioners and the general public view the U.S. opioid epidemic and their beliefs on what interventions work best for treating the general population and the veteran community.
Speakers will include Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV); Rep. Tim Murphy (D-PA); Rep. Ann Kuster (D-OH); Dr. Amy Kilbourne, Director of Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI), U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs; Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner; Nan Whaley, Mayor of Dayton, Ohio; Allison Jaslow, Executive Director, Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA); and Cynthia Reilly, Director, Substance Use Prevention and Treatment Initiative, The Pew Charitable Trusts.
“Around this time last year, we said that Cigna would take a first step in addressing the opioid epidemic with a commitment to reducing opioid use among our customers by 25 percent by 2019,” Cordani said. “Now, we are focusing on an important part of our population: the veteran community. As a leading global health service company, we have an obligation to discover ways to help fill gaps in research, treatment and resources for those brave men and women who have served and continue to serve our country.”
Steve Komarow, senior vice president and executive editor at CQ News, added that “only five years ago, prescription opioid and heroin abuse seemed like a limited issue, touching mostly Appalachia or rural areas of New England. Now it’s a nationwide problem that won’t go away any time soon, and it’s a priority for just about every member of Congress.”
The issue is magnified within the veteran community. The number of veterans living with opioid issues grew 55 percent between 2010 and 20151. Between higher rates of chronic pain2 and a 270 percent spike in opioid prescriptions over a 12-year period3, veterans are twice as likely to die from accidental opioid overdoses than non-veterans4.
Today’s released EIU study found that majorities of both practitioners and the general public say that treating veterans who suffer from opioid addiction is more complex than treating others – and more than a third of practitioners aren’t “very confident” they have the right resources and training to treat veterans with opioid use disorders. Sixty percent of practitioners say access to more medical support staff with extensive experience in treating veterans would help.
“We found from discussions with a variety of organizations that support the veteran community that veterans often use the health system the same way as everyone else,” added Cordani. “But the reality is they have very different needs. We found they need support to help them navigate the health system so that they get the best care.”
To help veterans navigate the system, Cordani announced that the Cigna Foundation awarded the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) a grant of $100,000 a year for three years to help expand IAVA’s Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP). RRRP is IAVA’s one-on-one case management and referral service program. Since the program’s launch in late 2012, IAVA has helped more than 7,900 veterans and family members get on track to meeting their goals through connections to quality resources and benefits. IAVA’s Veteran Transition Managers understand transition challenges and will work with individuals for as long as it takes to find solutions. They’ve helped veterans use their new GI Bill to pursue an education, find doctors and legal support, access emergency housing and financial assistance, and more. Services are free and confidential, and open to veterans of all eras and their families.
The grant will help IAVA expand its programming in the eastern seaboard of the United States, an area with a high concentration of veterans, and will help those who need it most while examining the quality of care in this region.
The Cigna Foundation is also awarding a $120,000 grant to the USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families, which will establish a dedicated support-center for veterans pursuing a Master of Social Work at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.
Cigna said it is also working to add staff and training for personal advocates who answer help lines operated by Cigna Behavioral Health, and plans to open up those lines to veterans needing counseling later this fall. The lines will be available to veterans and their families, whether they are Cigna customers or not.
For more information on Cigna’s leadership in addressing the country’s opioid crisis, please visit here.
About Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America
Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 12th year anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 7,900 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.
About USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families
The Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families (cir.usc.edu) is a global leader in promoting the health and well-being of service members, veterans and military families through research, education and collaboration that encourages successful transitions to civilian life. The center is housed within the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, the first research university to offer a large-scale military social work program that prepares students to care for service members, veterans and their families, helping them cope with the stresses of military life.
Cigna Corporation (NYSE: CI) is a global health service company dedicated to helping people improve their health, well-being and sense of security. All products and services are provided exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, including Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, Life Insurance Company of North America and Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. Such products and services include an integrated suite of health services, such as medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, vision, supplemental benefits, and other related products including group life, accident and disability insurance. Cigna maintains sales capability in 30 countries and jurisdictions, and has more than 95 million customer relationships throughout the world. To learn more about Cigna®, including links to follow us on Facebook or Twitter, visit www.cigna.com.