Building Trust

While our Company’s Mission is to empower our members to achieve their best health, we also take tremendous pride in being a leader in addressing the health of the communities we serve. Through our philanthropic work, we strive to be a trusted partner to many of the great organizations throughout New Jersey that are addressing the state’s most pressing health issues and helping those most in need.

Knocking Out Opioid Abuse

In 2019, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, together with The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ), continued its support of Knock Out Opioid Abuse (KOOA), an initiative that addresses the opioid epidemic through community outreach, prescriber and parent education, and a statewide awareness campaign.

The multi-year KOOA initiative has sponsored a series of town halls throughout the state to reduce stigma and raise community awareness of the epidemic. The feedback on these town halls has been overwhelmingly positive. According to the evaluation conducted by Rutgers University regarding the program’s impact, hundreds of town hall participants are more informed, and are more likely to share lessons learned, talk with children and young adults about the risks of opioid addiction, and safely dispose of opioid medications stored at home.

Knock Out Opioid Abuse


Suzanne Kunis, Vice President, Behavioral Health, Horizon BCBSNJ: “Every person in this room, I could almost ask for a show of hands, knows someone; family, friend, colleague, neighbor who is struggling with this issue.”

“We just need to get the word out and educate people about what’s the cause of the problem, what can we as normal citizens everyday do to make a change and how we have to be vigilant and not stop at where we are right now because we can’t afford to.”

Allen Karp, Executive Vice President, Healthcare Management & Transformation, Horizon BCBSNJ: “As the state’s largest and most experienced insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is dedicated to improving the lives of New Jersey residents. That is why we’re proud to work with the Partnership [for a] Drug Free New Jersey to bring you today’s summit as an introduction to our Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall series that will take place in communities throughout the state, and through 2020.”

The first KOOA town hall, held in March 2019 at the Newark Museum of Art, served as a summit that looked at the state and federal responses to the epidemic. However, one of the most memorable KOOA events was held at Rutgers University and focused on student athletes. After several speakers shared impassioned stories of their addiction and recovery or of family members struggling with addiction, Rutgers student-athletes pledged to do their part to knock out opioid abuse.

Knock Out Opioid Abuse


Ray Lucas, Former Rutgers and NFL Quarterback, Color Analyst Rutgers Football Radio Network: “I went from 125 pills a month to 1400 pills a month.”

“For me, it’s more of a message of it’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to say, I have a problem and can somebody help me and maybe I wouldn’t have been an addict for 3 years.”

Gurbir S. Grewal, New Jersey Attorney General: “It doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor. It doesn’t discriminate between North Jersey, South Jersey, east, west. If you look at the data on our website, it touches every pocket of this state equally: every corner of every county.”

“Horizon’s an incredible player in public health and I think for them to bring us together in this forum is an important part of the conversation. And really again, it's about the more we talk about it, the more we draw it out of the shadows, the more we draw the stigma from addiction, the more people feel comfortable seeking help, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Engaging the Audience

Believing that open communication is essential in the fight against the opioid epidemic, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey continued its support of Anytown, a touring musical developed by the George Street Playhouse. Anytown explores the opioid impact on students and families in a way that is easily understood by its intended audience of students in grades seven through 12.


Empowering the Provider Community

To help educate health professionals authorized to prescribe in New Jersey, Horizon BCBSNJ and the PDFNJ launched a one-hour education webinar entitled Do No Harm: Exploring Strategies for Safer Prescribing of Opioids, which provides information vital to promoting safer prescribing practices to keep patients safe from opioid misuse and addiction. According to the PDFNJ, since its launch in May, more than 200 health care professionals, caring for an estimated 220,000 patients, have completed the course (based on self-reported information from participating medical professionals).


Continued Collaboration

The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey also continued its support of Healthy U, an initiative that helps prevent childhood obesity in New Jersey by encouraging physical activity, nutrition education and family involvement, in addition to more than 20 other programs.

Helping organizations like the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance put children and families first is a priority. By educating children on healthy living habits, Horizon BCBSNJ and its partners work to reduce the incidence of chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. These conditions have a tremendous impact on a person’s quality of life and contribute to rising health care costs. By focusing on prevention, Horizon BCBSNJ is working to turn the tide on the obesity epidemic.

The Horizon Foundation’s grants also served many other vulnerable populations in 2019. To reach more children in need, funding was doubled for dental care and education programs through our Kids’ Oral Health Program. And, to serve New Jersey’s largest minority group, a new grant supported the Hispanic Family Center of Southern New Jersey’s community health navigation program, Pathways to Health.

Overall, The Horizon Foundation made 71 grants in 2019, totaling more than $2.5 million, and has now made 1,564 grants since its inception in 2004, totaling more than $59.1 million.


Horizon Cares

Horizon BCBSNJ employees are committed to their communities. Through participation in our Horizon Cares program, 587 employees volunteered more than 6,300 hours to non-profit organizations throughout the state in 2019, with 18 employee volunteers nominated and recognized by their peers for their efforts through a new Outstanding Volunteer Recognition Program.

Volunteer Recognition Luncheon


Joe Stetson, Chief Marketing & Revenue Officer, New York Red Bulls: “Today we are here to applaud all of you. The 18 Horizon employees who have given the time and commitment to give back to their own communities. Our entire organization admires you, your efforts, your service, your actions serve as an inspiration to all of us. And Muhammad Ali once said ‘Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.’ So from the bottom of my heart, thank you all for paying your rent.”

Gabriele Ursitti, Information Security Risk Analyst, Horizon BCBSNJ: “Volunteering for me is more about helping the people in need. There are many people in this world who are at a disadvantage whether it be financially or mentally, medically as well, so being able to help them is really what it’s all about.”

Linda Willett, Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary, Horizon BCBSNJ: “And that’s what Volunteerism is all about. Helping other people. And when I see the things that you do, it just brings tears to my eyes because you’re such good people.”

Horizon BCBSNJ is the statewide sponsor of the American Cancer Society. Through our involvement, employees participated in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks, the George Washington Bridge Challenge, the Relay for Life, a day of remembrance and celebration, and more.

Horizon BCBSNJ and its employees also supported select nonprofit organizations in New Jersey, such as the Greater Newark Conservancy and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey through our Days of Caring program.

Day of Caring


Jodi Cooperman, Treasurer, Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges: “We are so happy to have Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey here working with us today at the Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges.”

“We have about 300 clients who come every week to get food for their families.”

Diane Stein, Board President, Interfaith Food Pantry of the Oranges: “Clients come in and are able to actually choose from different food groups from grains and protein and produce.”

Nelson Villar, Business Analyst II, Horizon BCBSNJ: “We’re actually assisting them by escorting them, you know, to get the foods. Also assisting them, whether there is a language barrier as well with health screening questions.”

“It’s humbling to know that you’re able to help those less fortunate.”

Felecia Vaughn-Timley, Contract Analyst II, Horizon BCBSNJ: “To put a smile on somebody’s face to make sure that somebody else is being helped. And I enjoy making people feel good about themselves no matter what situation they’re in. So yes, this is excellent.”

Pamela Singer, Director of Community Engagement, Summit Medical Group Foundation: “Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey has helped us with their sponsorship, and that has been tremendous for us. The partnership’s been amazing; having the volunteers here, wow, what a bonus.”

And, Horizon BCBSNJ employees took advantage of the Matching Gifts Program, with the Company matching a record $582,000 in gifts to eligible non-profit organizations in 2019.