COLUMBUS, Ga., Dec. 9, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Aflac, a leading provider of supplemental insurance and products in the U.S., has pledged $1 million to Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM). The funding will support the institution's research and education programs related to the ongoing opioid crisis in rural America. Aflac will provide Morehouse School of Medicine with five annual installments of $200,000, which began in 2020. The majority of Atlanta-based Morehouse School of Medicine's more than 1,400 alumni serve communities located in rural areas and inner cities, locally, nationally and internationally.
"For years, the opioid crisis has impacted American families, and nowhere more than in rural areas, especially in the rural African-American community. We applaud Morehouse School of Medicine for their willingness to engage directly with this issue in the Chattahoochee Valley and Columbus, Georgia, region, where Aflac is headquartered," said Aflac U.S. President Teresa L. White. "This program will help individuals understand the power and dangers of opioid addiction, while lessons learned will likely drive national, fact-based discussions about how to confront this crisis in rural America and the impact on the Black community. Aflac is proud to sponsor this initiative, designed to help people when they need it most, our company's principal mission since Aflac's founding in 1955."
MSM's work will take place in the Columbus area and focus on five distinct groups: healthcare providers, social workers and federally qualified health centers, high schools, local colleges and faith-based community organizations and churches.
"The opioid epidemic remains relentless in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley Region and threatens to worsen as federal and state attention, funding and human resources shift to address the COVID-19 pandemic," said Morehouse School of Medicine President and Dean Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD. "Existing issues in the public health system, like the shortage of providers in underserved areas, are being exacerbated as clinics across the country that once treated opioid use disorder are becoming overwhelmed by cases related to COVID-19."
Dr. Montgomery Rice added that the seclusion required by the novel coronavirus is taking a particular toll on those who struggle with opioid use disorder, given that isolation feeds addiction. She emphasized the importance of approaching this ongoing crisis with a thorough understanding of the role that the pandemic is playing in opioid-addiction diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
"By using a holistic approach that focuses on community residents, professionals and providers, we can help those who are grappling with opioid abuse and keep this issue from falling by the wayside," Dr. Montgomery Rice said. "We will conduct research, investigate models of care delivery and seek other solutions to the opioid crisis in the Columbus area, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. This is why the $1-million partnership between Morehouse School of Medicine and Aflac is so critically important."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2018 more than 67,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States, with opioids being involved in nearly 47,000 overdose deaths. In 2018 more than 31,000 deaths involved synthetic opioids, which is more deaths than from any other type of opioid. Rates for synthetic opioid overdose deaths increased from 2017 to 2018 among males and females, persons 25 years and older, non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, in large and small communities. Additional surveys by the National Farmers Union and the American Farm Bureau Federation found that as many as 74% of farmers have been directly impacted by the opioid crisis. A study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (page 4) also found that in 2017, non-Hispanic Blacks had the highest percentages of opioid-related overdose deaths and total drug deaths attributed to synthetic opioids when compared to other race/ethnicities and the national population.
About Aflac Incorporated
Aflac Incorporated (NYSE: AFL) is a Fortune 500 company, helping provide protection to more than 50 million people through its subsidiaries in Japan and the U.S., where it is a leading supplemental insurer by paying cash fast when policyholders get sick or injured. For more than six decades, insurance policies of Aflac Incorporated's subsidiaries have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress. Aflac Life Insurance Japan is the leading provider of medical and cancer insurance in Japan where it insures 1 in 4 households. For 14 consecutive years, Aflac Incorporated has been recognized by Ethisphere as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies. In 2020, Fortune included Aflac Incorporated on its list of World's Most Admired Companies for the 19th time, and Bloomberg added Aflac Incorporated to its Gender-Equality Index, which tracks the financial performance of public companies committed to supporting gender equality through policy development, representation and transparency. To find out how to get help with expenses health insurance doesn't cover, get to know us at aflac.com or aflac.com/espanol.
About Morehouse School of Medicine
Founded in 1975, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) is among the nation's leading educators of primary care physicians, biomedical scientists and public health professionals. In 2011, MSM was recognized by Annals of Internal Medicine as the nation's No. 1 medical school in fulfilling a social mission. MSM faculty and alumni are noted for excellence in teaching, research and public policy, as well as exceptional patient care. Morehouse School of Medicine is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award doctoral and master's degrees. To learn more about programs and donate today, please visit www.msm.edu or call 404-752-1500.
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