Syracuse, NY

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield funding supports overdose awareness and families facing substance use disorder in Central New York

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield recently awarded grant funding to two Central New York organizations dedicated to assisting our local communities in the fight against overdose deaths and to healing family relationships wounded by the scourge of substance use disorder.

Excellus BCBS has awarded ACR Health with a $6,499 Health & Wellness Award to support the organization’s Overdose Awareness and Prevention programming, and also awarded a $5,000 Health & Wellness Award to the Consortium for Children’s Services for its Nurturing Parenting Families in Substance Abuse Treatment & Recovery program.

“Our mission as a local, nonprofit health plan is to help people in our communities live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care,” says Mark Muthumbi, regional president, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “We see the devastating ripple effects of the opioid epidemic and substance use across the nation and in our Central New York communities. We’re eager to partner in this way with ACR Health and the Children’s Consortium in an effort to save lives and families.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, more than 100,000 people in the U.S. died from a drug overdose in 2021. And right here in Central New York, the story is no different. Since January of this year, already more than 700 overdoses have been reported in Onondaga County alone, according to data released by the Onondaga County Health Department.

This Health & Wellness Award funding supports ACR Health’s year-round community overdose awareness education and training. Serving Onondaga, Cayuga, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Oswego, and St. Lawrence counties, ACR Health utilizes peer educators to perform targeted outreach and equip community members with education, training, and tools, such as sterile syringe supplies and free overdose prevention kits (Naloxone), to minimize overdose risk, address barriers to access, and reduce stigma in Central and Northern New York communities. ACR Health also performs weekly overdose prevention outreach in “hot spot” zones in both Onondaga and Oneida counties.

In addition, ACR Health’s regional Overdose Awareness Day events help to educate the general public on the impact overdoses have on our communities and ways to reduce and prevent overdoses. This includes Narcan use training, education on recognizing the signs of an overdose, and partnering with organizations to provide access to local resources and services.

“Our Overdose Awareness events allow for all community members to come and see our services, obtain training and overdose prevention kits, and decrease the stigma around substance use. We want the whole community to know: anyone can have the chance to save someone’s life with Naloxone,” says Michelle McElroy, chief program officer, ACR Health. “This support from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield helps us to continue to hold regional overdose awareness events, so that we may continue this community connection and increase awareness of our harm reduction services and free access to training and supplies.”

Families torn apart by substance use disorder may have the joy of witnessing a loved one’s treatment and recovery tempered by enduring and unaddressed psychological damage that the past has wrought on these relationships.

Excellus BCBS’s award funding supports The Consortium for Children’s Services’ Nurturing Parenting Families in Substance Abuse Treatment & Recovery programming, which encompasses its Circle of Security and Active Parenting programs and focuses on the effects of substance abuse on families, parenting, and parent-child relationships. Combining experiential and didactic exercises, this programming enhances parents' self-awareness and assists them in re-establishing and strengthening their connections with their children.

As parents and children work through the 8- to 10-week program (offered in five separate sessions throughout the year), their relationship should improve as certain essential factors, specifically mutuality, authenticity, and empathy, become more vital and pervasive in the relationship. In-person and virtual options are offered to families in Onondaga, Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Oneida and Oswego counties.

“Circle of Security and Active Parenting are two programs with the capacity to impact families during some of their most stressful times—substance abuse treatment and recovery. These programs give parents concrete information and skills that they can apply to their parenting on a daily basis and help them understand there is a better way to parent than they might have experienced as children,” says Kathleen Harter, executive director, The Consortium for Children’s Services. “We plan to continue to offer these programs as often as necessary and at as low cost as possible. Funding such as this from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is so vital in helping to supplement the cost of the program, so that more people can participate.”

Excellus BCBS’s community investments and partnerships strive to address disparities that impact its members and the communities in which they live. While the Health Plan and its community partners are unified in their mission to help people live healthier, more secure lives, the prevailing challenges in each region necessitate diverse approaches. Excellus BCBS’s 2023 focus areas will support community investments in the form of event sponsorships and Health and Wellness Awards offered year-round. Later this summer, the Health Plan will launch a call for ideas with an opportunity for community-based organizations to apply for Health Equity Innovation Investments.

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Edward Byrnes,

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company's mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 4,200 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit


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