A Passport to Health

Photo By Cameron Aubernon

Photo By Cameron Aubernon

By Cameron Aubernon  |  Health & Wellness

A creeping darkness has entered the heart of Louisville. Not a day goes by without news of another drug overdose (or several); 151 cases of heroin overdoses were reported over four days in mid-February 2017 alone. The severity of the rise in such cases has led the U.S. Attorney’s Office to issue a report in the waning days of March 2017, outlining ways the community can eliminate future occurrences and their triggers.

Three of the recommendations are aimed squarely upon Louisville’s youth: prevention programs augmented by evidence-based principles as well as recovery support should be offered in schools, and there should be an expansion of education outreach to the public.

The first two – prevention and recovery – could be tackled with help from Passport Health Plan, which provides Medicaid benefits to around 300,000 Kentuckians. Passport was recently chosen to be one of seven participants on a three-year collaborative learning project to develop methods in identifying youth who are at-risk for developing substance use disorders.

“Passport’s been around for about 20 years now,” says Michael Rabkin, communications director for Passport. “We’ve been constantly trying to find ways to improve the health of Kentuckians of all ages. The issue of substance use and substance use disorders is not a new one [for us]. We’ve been working in this field for a long time now.”

Rabkin says working on the collaborative project – led by the Center for Health Care Strategies in partnership with the Association for Community Affiliated Plans and funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation – fits in perfectly with its mission of identifying potential health problems and establishing preventive care protocols to head off said problems at the pass, enhancing the quality of life of Passport’s members in so doing.

“Passport recognizes that substance use disorders are a huge public health crisis in the commonwealth,” said Passport Director of Behavioral Health Elizabeth W. McKune, Ed.D. in a press release. “We are working closely with our providers and the Kentucky Department of Medicaid Services to increase the number of adolescents screened for potential problems with substances and teach them where they can go should they begin having problems with substances in the future.”

Passport, along with the other six Safety Net Health Plans around the country chosen for the three-year project, will base its project around the SBIRT model – Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment – an evidence-based tactic used around the country by primary care and general practitioners to identify those at-risk for developing substance-use related disorders. The seven health plans serve a total of 431,000 youths.

Passport’s project includes expanding the number of young patients in Kentucky’s Medicaid population who are screened for potential problems, development of regional trainings involving SBIRT, and webinars with continuing education for providers around the commonwealth.

“We’re hoping that more youth will be getting the treatment that they need,” Rabkin said when asked about the hoped outcome the project will bring after three years. “More primary care providers will be [able to recognize] the issues, determining if their patients need more specialized treatment, and [then] getting them into that treatment. We’re hoping to reduce the incidents of substance use among young people around Kentucky. That’s really the goal.” VT

To learn more about Passport Health Plan, visit

passporthealthplan.org or call 1.800.578.0603 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to join.