Aetna Gives $1 Million To Fight Opioid Addiction In Rural NC

Feb 14, 2018

File photo of a naloxone inhaler and auto injector. Aetna donated $1 million to the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition Tuesday to purchase naloxone and distribute it in rural parts of the state.
Credit Raul Rubiera / For WUNC

A national health insurer is pledging to help North Carolina fight the opioid epidemic.

The Aetna Foundation announced Tuesday it's giving $1 million dollars to the nonprofit North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition to purchase the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone. The organization will then distribute the drug in rural parts of the state.

Many people in rural North Carolina don't have access to naloxone, according to NCHRC Executive Director Robert Childs.  

"So we need to give people who use drugs and people who love people who use drugs access to lifesaving naloxone. And we plan on doing that in mass," Childs said.

There is pressing need to distribute naloxone to drug users and their families in rural parts of the state because it can take longer for paramedics or law enforcement to respond to an opioid overdose, according to Childs.

Following the announcement Tuesday, Aetna Foundation President Garth Graham said the effects of an opioid overdose reverberate through an entire community, especially in rural areas.  

"There is a trajectory of ways that impact flows from that individual straight through the community and all the way up in terms of the tapestry of our country," Graham said.  

Aetna plans to donate $6 million in total grants to the state to help combat the most critical problems created by the opioid epidemic.

More than 42,000 Americans die each year from opioid overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.