United Health Foundation Partners with Helen Ross McNabb Center and The University of Tennessee Medical Center to Fight Opioid Abuse in Tennessee

July 10, 2019
bill lee heather cianfrocco

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and UnitedHealthcare Community Plan CEO Heather Cianfrocco discuss United Health Foundation’s new partnership with the Helen Ross McNabb Center to fight substance abuse in East Tennessee.

The United Health Foundation today announced a three-year, $1.05 million grant to Helen Ross McNabb Center to expand The University of Tennessee’s Medical Center’s Emergency Room Substance Misuse Harm Reduction and Engagement Program. The goal of the partnership is to reduce the prevalence of opioid overdose throughout East Tennessee by engaging patients entering the emergency department and increasing access to providers and behavioral health services.

On the rise

“Every day we see the devastating effects of substance abuse and addiction on East Tennesseans,” said Jerry Vagnier, president/CEO of the Helen Ross McNabb Center. “We are grateful to have a partner like the United Health Foundation to help us expand the reach of our resources and services to meet the needs of our neighbors and their families. Together we will improve the lives of the people we serve.”

Tennessee ranks 38th in drug-related deaths with a rate of 22 per 100,000 in 2018, according to America’s Health Rankings. The drug-related death rate in Tennessee has nearly doubled over the previous 12 years.

New hires

The three-year grant partnership will support Helen Ross McNabb Center’s mission by:

  • Educating all individuals seeking care at UT Medical Center’s Emergency Room about available resources and services to help address their substance abuse/addiction, particularly individuals addicted to opioids;

  • Engaging more than 250 patients per year with the goal of 100 of those patients accepting a referral to outpatient, residential or other treatment options per year, and

  • Hiring addiction and peer support specialists to work within the emergency department to directly engage patients with needed resources and support.

“The United Health Foundation has built a critical partnership with the McNabb Center and the University of Tennessee Medical Center to provide resources for substance abuse addiction,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. “These efforts provide much-needed support in the fight against the opioid crisis and will do significant work in creating pathways to healing.”

For the United Health Foundation, partnering with Helen Ross McNabb Center and UT Medical Center was the right thing to do.

“Helen Ross McNabb Center and The University of Tennessee Medical Center work every day to help individuals and families fight substance abuse and addiction, and we are honored to partner with them in their efforts,” said Heather Cianfrocco, United Health Foundation board member and CEO of UnitedHealthcare’s Community Plans. “Through this partnership, we are helping to expand access to mental and behavioral health services which are critical to helping build healthier communities right here in Knoxville.”

Earlier this year UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group company, partnered with Shatterproof, a national nonprofit, to introduce oral health strategies to confront the opioid epidemic. 

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