NC Payers Council Releases Approach to Further Combat the Opioid Crisis in North Carolina


The North Carolina Payers Council, a group of public and private health care payers formed as part of Governor Roy Cooper’s 2017 North Carolina Opioid Action Plan to identify, align and implement policies to combat the opioid crisis, today released a report that identifies a five-pronged approach to address the epidemic.
Endorsed by the council’s diverse membership, the approach includes: 

  1. Limiting strength and duration of opioid-related medications and promoting opioid-sparing pain treatment 
  2. Decreasing barriers to the opioid reversal drug naloxone 
  3. Providing access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder 
  4. Using data analysis and surveillance to inform best practices  
  5. Supporting healthcare provider, pharmacist and patient education on safe opioid prescribing, pain management and substance use 

"Too many people are dying. Too many families and loved ones in North Carolina are facing the heartbreak of loss," said State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer Elizabeth Tilson, M.D., MPH, who chaired the council. "The Payers Council worked to identify tangible things that payers can change as we seek ways to prevent opioid use disorders, move people toward needed treatment and reduce deaths. This work can also be an example for other states seeking ways to fight this epidemic."

The Payers Council was formed to bring together payers to identify, align and implement policies that support providers in the judicious prescribing of opioids and improve access to naloxone; promote safer, more comprehensive and evidence-informed pain management; increase access to a continuum of care for substance use disorder treatment and recovery supports; and engage and empower patients in the management of their health. 

The council’s members include representatives of private insurance companies, pharmacy benefit managers, Medicaid, Medicare, Military and Veterans Administration and workers’ compensation organizations. The council developed a list of recommendations they believed would have a significant positive impact on the opioid epidemic in North Carolina and that they would be willing to take into consideration for their own health plans.

In North Carolina, four people die every day of an opioid overdose. In 2016, there were 1,518 North Carolina resident opioid overdose deaths, 2,705 hospitalizations and 4,079 emergency department visits. More than 8.4 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed and an estimated 395,000 North Carolina residents misused prescription pain medication. In 2016, emergency medical services and first responders in North Carolina also administered naloxone more than 13,000 times for suspected opioid overdoses.

More details on the Payers Council and its strategies are available at