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Cardinal Innovations Helps Counties Respond to Spike in Overdoses

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — March 09, 2021
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (March 9, 2021) – As the outlook on the COVID-19 pandemic improves, an older public health crisis continues on: opioid abuse. In response to public safety officials’ calls for help, Cardinal Innovations Healthcare has made a $500,000 grant to purchase and distribute thousands of extra dosages of a drug that reverses the effects of deadly overdoses.

Known by its brand name Narcan, Naloxone can save a life if administered during an opioid overdose. Beginning as soon as this week, some 7,000 units of Narcan will be shipped to each of the 20 counties in Cardinal Innovations’ coverage area based on population, opioid death rates and other factors. Most dosages will be distributed to local health departments; the remainder will go to providers that serve those who suffer from opioid addiction.

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare is a specialized insurance health plan contracted by the state to serve Medicaid recipients and the under-insured and uninsured, including coordinating care for those experiencing substance use disorders.

Opioids are prescription-only pain-relieving drugs such as oxycodone, codeine, fentanyl, or morphine. When used as directed by a doctor, prescription opioids can safely control pain. Illegal opioids include drugs like heroin or synthetic fentanyl.

According to the National Institutes of Health, in 2018 North Carolina ranked 15th among states for deaths from opioid overdose, with a rate of 18 deaths per 100,000 residents. Characterizing the problem as an “epidemic,” The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported more than 12,000 North Carolinians died from opioid-related overdoses 1999-2016. “This epidemic is devastating families and communities. It is overwhelming medical providers and is straining prevention and treatment efforts,” the Department said on its website.

Area providers that treat substance use disorders are seeing the effects in real time. Mary Ward, President of McLeod Addictive Disease Center in Charlotte, described a recent incident involving two individuals in their parking lot who overdosed from opioids they had just purchased. “We only had one dose of Narcan on hand, a physician assistant’s personal dose, which we used to reverse one individual successfully. Fortunately, the other individual recovered on (his/her) own prior to MEDIC arriving.

“Helping to provide adequate supply of Narcan at our locations in Charlotte, Concord, and Monroe will have potential reach to 1,198 active patients under our care plus emergencies such as the one above,” Ward added. “We appreciate Cardinal’s help and support in addressing this urgent health need.”

2019 – Deaths from Opioid Overdose in Cardinal Innovations’ Catchment Area
  1. Rowan
142,088 25.5
  1. Stanly
62,806 25.5
  1. Halifax
50,010 24.0
  1. Davidson
167,609 23.3
  1. Vance
44,535 22.5
  1. Franklin
69,685 21.5
  1. Forsyth
382,295 20.1
  1. Rockingham
91,010 19.8
  1. Cabarrus
216,453 13.4
  1. Granville
60,443 13.2
  1. Stokes
45,491 13.2
  1. Alamance
169,509 12.9
  1. Person
39,490 12.7
  1. Mecklenburg
1,110,356 12.4
  1. Davie
42,846 11.7
  1. Chatham
74,470 10.7
  1. Union
239,859 9.6
  1. Orange
148,476 6.7
  1. Warren
19,731 5.1
  1. Caswell
22,604 4.4

“The opioid crisis did not abate during the pandemic; drug and alcohol abuse is up and it’s impacting our most vulnerable,” said Trey Sutten, Cardinal Innovations CEO. “Lives are in the balance, and we are pleased to provide assistance to our providers and county partners as they confront the effects of this public health crisis on the streets of their communities, every day.”

About Cardinal Innovations: Cardinal Innovations Healthcare is a specialized health plan and care coordinator for Medicaid recipients and the under- and uninsured in North Carolina with complex behavioral and special needs. Cardinal Innovations connects people with treatment and support for mental health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and substance use disorders through a network of providers in their communities. The organization serves this important role in 20 counties. In 2020, Cardinal Innovations administered nearly $850 million for the care of 825,000 people in the region and invested more than $50 million to improve support systems and to respond to the pandemic. Cardinal Innovations also works with local governments to address public health concerns such as homelessness, suicide prevention, child welfare and domestic violence through education, engagement and outreach.

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