The Health Improvement Tour delivers free blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and BMI screenings. Health coaches are also on site to educate and encourage preventive care.

The Cigna Foundation donates to the HAIR program that aims in educating hair stylists and barbers to be health advocates.

The Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy and Equity Festival offers free dental care, through a two-day clinic, for uninsured and underinsured Marylanders.

CIGNA’s quest to confront the opioid epidemic

By Laura Toraldo

(April 09, 2018—BALTIMORE, Md.) In the nation’s brutal opioid overdose epidemic, Maryland is among the hardest-hit.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1,821 Marylanders died of opioid overdoses in 2016, up nearly 68 percent from the year before. More than 800 were prescription overdoses.

As the federal and state government debate over ways to combat an issue Gov. Larry Hogan told a U.S. Senate panel is tearing families apart all over the country, Cigna has approached the challenge head-on.

“If not us, then who?” said Cigna Mid-Atlantic Market President Monica Schmude.

The health insurance company, Cigna, is dedicated to giving back to the communities that it serves to improve health care overall. When it comes to opioid usage, that meant utilizing its unique position with clients, physicians, and prescription drugs.

“We see all the claims, we see all the prescriptions that come through our system, and we use analytics to identify who might be next,” Schmude said. “That prompts intervention with the prescribing physicians to prevent overdoses or overprescribing.”

Cigna aligned with federal and state requirements to minimize risk by limiting prescription supplies. To prevent patients from needing the medications at all, it also works toward prevention.

“We have a campaign to educate about pain in general,” said Schmude, “how it manifests, how it’s treated, and how to manage pain safely.”

It’s working. Through a partnership with 1.1 million prescribing physicians and others, Cigna has fought to reduce opioid use among its customers by 25 percent in the first year.

At the same time, the Cigna Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the insurance company, also provided a grant to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to support its community referral program that helps veterans overcome many life challenges, including opioid addiction.

Schmude said it all goes back to Cigna’s mission statement: to help improve the health, well-being, and sense of security for the people it serves.

Given that all-encompassing view, the Cigna Foundation has a host of partnerships dedicated to education and outreach in a number of health areas. Take, for example, its Health Advocates In-Reach & Research program, also known as HAIR. Because hair salons and barber shops can be vital areas of community, HAIR trains Prince George’s County barbers and hair stylists to be health advocates. In partnership with the University of Maryland School of Public Health’s Maryland Center for Health Equity, the program, now in its third year, is expanding from Prince George’s County into a national model.

“We identified a need for colorectal screening within the African-American community,” said Schmude. “We see the highest rate of colorectal cancer in these communities and because of that, they are more likely to die of this disease. We needed to do something, we needed to be involved.”

Other initiatives include the Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy and Health Equity Festival that provides an estimated $1 million in free dental care to more than 12,000 uninsured or underinsured Maryland adults.

There’s also a CPR and defibrillator training program for high school students. One mother told Schmude about how her son, who learned CPR in that program, saved his younger brother.

“This was a life-altering moment for me,” Schmude said. “That experience changed me and it made me want to give more because this is what matters.

‘”It’s making a difference.”

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by Laura Toraldo

Laura Toraldo joined the Maryland Chamber of Commerce in the fall of 2016 as the director of marketing and communications. She comes to the Maryland Chamber from National Geographic, where she worked for nearly 10 years—most recently as their multimedia editor.

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