A message of addiction and recovery for an Oregon community

Published December 9, 2019

When you’re the parent of a child struggling with substance abuse, you wonder how it happened. How long have they been using drugs? How did they get them? How did I miss the warning signs?

These are questions too many parents across the U.S. have to ask. In Oregon, five people die each week from opioid overdose, according to the Oregon Health Authority. The state has one of the highest rates of prescription opioid abuse in the country.

For one recovered addict, however, it’s more important that parents ask “Why did it happen?” than “How?”

“We look at the end, rather than why someone started in the first place,” says former Boston Celtics starter Chris Herren. Herren’s own struggle with addiction ended his professional basketball career. After hanging up his jersey and getting clean, he made it his mission to shed light on the mental, behavioral and emotional health issues that lead young people to substance abuse and addiction in the first place.

Recently, Regence BlueCross and BlueShield of Oregon (Regence BCBS) brought Herren to Tualatin, Oregon, to share his personal story of addiction and the lessons he learned in recovery with the local community. It’s one of the many ways the health insurer is responding to the state’s opioid crisis.

Click to learn about Herren’s journey to recovery and his message for students, parents and community members. 

Regence, which operates health plans out of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah, addresses opioid abuse at every stage of the addiction cycle: prevention, treatment and recovery—while also supporting appropriate use for people who can benefit from opioid treatment—by:

  • Reducing unnecessary opioid prescriptions. In 2018, Regence reduced its opioid prescriptions by 39%, exceeding its goal of a 25% reduction from its 2015 prescription rates. 
  • Supporting alternative treatments. Regence covers several non-opioid treatments, like alternative drugs, acupuncture and massage therapy, depending on plan design, to help members deal with chronic pain. 
  • Partnering with local providers and sharing data so that doctors can make the best, most informed decisions for the health of their patients.
  • Promoting safe opioid disposal. Regence partners with Walgreens locations throughout its service area to install medication disposal kiosks.
  • Supporting members in recovery. The insurer offers case management catered to those dealing with opioid addiction to help them navigate their unique needs.
  • Educating members and communities. Regence sponsors numerous events and programs across its four-state footprint aimed at preventing and treating addiction, removing the stigma from mental and behavioral health needs, and teaching members how to manage their pain.

Regence BlueCross BlueShield is a nonprofit independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. Find more information about their commitment to fighting the opioid epidemic here.