CareFirst to fund $2.1 million grant program for addiction services in Maryland

The Baltimore Sun

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield announced Tuesday plans to award about $2.1 million in grants to 11 community health organizations in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia — a move that health care and government officials hope will boost addiction treatment efforts.

CareFirst officials, along with Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, announced the grants at a news conference Wednesday, emphasizing the urgent need to address the soaring number of drug- and alcohol-related deaths in Maryland. In 2017, the state saw an all-time high of 2,282 deaths stemming from drugs and alcohol.

In April 2017, the insurance company asked for proposals from nonprofit health organizations about how they would use funds to address substance use disorder treatment and prevention programs and expand their patients’ access to those programs.

More than 20 nonprofit organizations submitted proposals, which were culled to a list of 11 grantees in the MidAtlantic region, many of them serving Baltimore. The grant funds, which will be distributed over the next two years, are expected to impact 115,000 patients, a CareFirst spokesperson said.

Pugh said the funds were huge for Baltimore and those on the front lines of the fight to stem addictions and opioid abuse.

Cummings said government entities “cannot do it alone” when it comes to addressing the opioid epidemic.

“I’ve often said that in order for our city to be the very best it can be, our entire city must rise,” the Baltimore Democrat said of CareFirst’s grant program.

The Tuerk House in Baltimore was awarded more than $133,000. The organization’s executive director, Bernard Gyebi-Foster, said he intended to use to expand outpatient treatment and to dispel myths surrounding medication-assisted treatment for the opioid epidemic.

“Our hope is that moving forward we will be able to form some more collaboration together with our city,” Gyebi-Foster said.

The11 grant recipients are:

» The Anne Arundel Medical Center Foundation was granted $150,000 to expand outpatient services and train the county’s emergency department providers to administer Suboxone — a medication that suppresses drug cravings and withdrawal — to patients.

» The Arlington County Community Service Board was granted $250,000 to add primary care staff, peer recovery coaches and other services in Northern Virginia.

» The Association for the Public Defender of Maryland was granted $382,000 to provide outpatient screening, treatment, referrals, case management and peer support to justice-involved individuals in Frederick and Washington counties.

» The Behavioral Health Leadership Institute was granted $198,674 to offer medication-assisted treatment for opioid-addicted individuals leaving the Baltimore detention center.

» Catholic Charities of Baltimore was granted $150,000 to expand capacity for integrated treatment for co-occurring substance use disorders in Baltimore City and Baltimore County;

» Family and Medical Counseling Service was granted $200,000 to expand access to screening, intervention, referrals, peer support and Narcan kits to patients in Washington.

» The Harford County Office of Drug Control Policy was granted $111,000 to enhance triage and care coordination for individuals seeking access to treatment services.

» Health Care for the Homeless was granted $100,000 to improve screening, intervention, referral to treatment services and Narcan kits at its Baltimore facilities.

» Tuerk House was granted $133,789 to increase access to an intensive outpatient program that provides group therapy services, case management, medication-assisted treatment and referral support.

» The University of Maryland, Baltimore Foundation was granted $212,172 to bolster substance use disorder telemedicine capability for residents of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

» The Western Maryland Health System Foundation was granted $200,000 to establish a community-based crisis center that will provide outpatient screening, assessment, intervention and referral services.

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