Bimestefer Remarks at Lift the Label Event
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 14, 2018
Denver, CO – Today Health Care Policy and Financing Executive Director Kim Bimestefer joined Governor Hickenlooper and other members of his cabinet for an event aimed at reducing stigma for individuals with opioid addiction. Below are Director Bimestefer’s remarks:
“It is an honor to be here with you today to address an important topic for so many in our state, and one that has impacted my family as well.
I’m Kim Bimestefer, Executive Director of the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. Our Department administers Colorado’s Medicaid program and the Child Health Plan Plus program. These are safety net health insurance programs serving 1.3 million people and nearly 1 in 4 Coloradans.
Our Department has been working on addressing challenges related to opioid overuse since before 2012. To put the challenge in perspective, in 2015 259 million opioid prescriptions were written, which is enough to have about one bottle of narcotics in every household in America. Clearly, we had work to do to reverse these destructive trends.
Our collaborative efforts with health care providers, the State Innovation Model to integrate physical and behavioral health, the National Governor’s Association and the development of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Use Prevention, has helped produce evidenced-based policies to impact prescribing practices and improve the quality of care provided to our members.
We are pleased to report that our partnerships have proven successful. In each of the last three years, we’ve reversed prior industry trends, generating a cumulative 30% reduction in BOTH the number of pills prescribed in the Medicaid program AND the number of people taking opioids within the Medicaid program.
To our members, that means we are lowering the risk of opioid addiction, which is even more critical given the fact that 4 of 5 heroin users first begin their addictive struggle with opioids. While we have made progress in the prevention of opioid addiction going forward, clearly, we need to do more to help our Medicaid members who are struggling with opioid addiction today.
Our members are almost 29% of opioid overdose deaths. This is devastating to individuals’ families across the state and heart breaking to providers, care support organizations, and the passionate staff in our Department. As a community, we can and will do better to be there when our members are ready to take that first step and seek help.
That’s what today is about. To underscore that there is no shame in raising your hand to ask for help. Our health care providers, care support partners, toll free 24-hour nurse line clinicians, passionate Medicaid staff and many other caring touch points are eager to help you – not just survive, but to thrive. YOU are not alone in your struggle.
When I was in elementary school in the 70s, we lived in California, and my father was an executive in a large corporation. As he moved up the corporate ladder and the stress mounted, he found himself unable to sleep at night. His doctor said, “Take this in the evening to help you sleep. Take this in the morning to help you wake up.”
And so, it began. The cycle of addiction had innocently but destructively invaded our family unit. I know what it is like to be a kid growing up inside increasingly volatile surroundings due to addiction, to have the family breadwinner lose his job due to actions and behaviors driven by the addiction. To have my mom call the children together to tell us how important it is to support our father through an incredibly difficult time for him, to have to sell our house, to uproot and move across the country to be closer to our extended, supportive family.
I know intimately that those of you struggling with addiction and the families impacted can get through this difficult chapter. I know first-hand that your struggle can build character and strength that you never thought you had in you, and a balancing and beautiful humility that will drive you to reach out to help others in time, and that is the silver lining that I promise can be part of your amazing beauty and grace in the weeks and months to come.
I stand before you today to deliver a very clear message. We at Medicaid, and all the health agencies, are here for you with resources and expertise to help you through this challenging time, to support you on your courageous journey, to help you thrive through this difficult chapter that is soon to be behind you.
Labels are for packages, not people. So Lift the Label – and reach out for help. You will find no judgement here.”
About the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing: The Department administers Health First Colorado (Colorado's Medicaid Program) and Child Health Plan Plus as well as a variety of other programs for Coloradans who qualify. For more information about the Department, please visit Colorado.gov/hcpf.