CVS Health pledges $250K for opioid abuse treatment center near HQ

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health is teaming up with Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to help open an opioid Center of Excellence here, where the company has its headquarters, in an effort expand access to medication-assisted treatment. The company has committed $250,000 to the Community Care Alliance to open and operate the Woonsocket Center.

"The solution to this complex problem will require a multi-pronged effort, involving a broad group of stakeholders in health care and beyond,” CVS Health presdent and CEO Larry Merlo said. “At CVS Health, we have been proactively working with our communities to address this epidemic in a comprehensive way. Today, we're proud to partner with Gov. Raimondo to establish a new Opioid Center of Excellence focused on medication-assisted treatment and outpatient services here in Woonsocket.”

In response to the opioid epidemic in Rhode Island — which has one of the nation’s highest overdose rates — the state established a Center of Excellence Model to offer patients outpatient treatment for substance abuse disorders. The state’s department of behavioral healthcare, developmental disabilities and hospitals recently certified the Community Care Alliance to operate the Woonsocket center.

"The overdose epidemic is the single greatest public health crisis of our time. I am so thankful to CVS Health for stepping up to the plate to support Rhode Island's efforts to expand access to treatment and recovery," Raimondo said. "This crisis has touched every community in our state. Because of CVS Health's commitment, we're going to be in a position to save lives in northern Rhode Island."

Merlo and Raimundo made the announcement at the 2017 National Governor’s Association Summer Meeting, which is being held in Rhode Island this year. At the meeting, Merlo has shared with more than 30 governors — as well as the acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy — the company’s approach to providing accessible and effective care. Combating the opioid epidemic is among the three pillars of the approach that he outlined.

“Pharmacies can also play an important role in helping ensure appropriate access to pain medications while assuring patient safety,” Merlo said. “Electronic, or e-prescribing, for controlled substances has proven to be effective in reducing drug diversion and fraud.”

Last week, Merlo penned an op-ed for Morning Consult calling for limits on opioid prescribing and noting that pharmacies can help ensure access to medications for patients with legitimate need while curbing misuse and abuse. 

Beyond efforts to curb prescription drug abuse, Merlo highlighted CVS Health’s efforts to lower the cost of prescription drugs, noting that a recent Menges Group report found that greater utilization of pharmacy benefits management tools in Medicaid could save the federal government and the states $51 billion over  10 years.

“Because pharmacy management and medication utilization play such important roles in reducing prescription drug costs and the total cost of care, pharmacy benefit management programs should be included in all state managed care programs,” Merlo said.

He also highlighted the role that pharmacy can play in helping manage chronic diseases — in particular by helping avoid the estimated $300 billion that improper adherence costs annually.

“Pharmacy care plays a critical role in managing chronic disease in a more affordable and effective way,” Merlo said. "Think about it: most patients interact far more frequently with their pharmacist than their physician, and research published in Health Affairs has shown that one-on-one counseling between a patient and a pharmacist results in improved medication adherence and cost savings of $3 for every $1 invested.”

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