TDH Launches Campaign to Raise Awareness, Create Change
In mid-July, the Tennessee Department of Health launched a new awareness campaign that underscores the toll of the opioid crisis on every community throughout the state. The new "Tennessee Faces of the Opioid Crisis" tells personal stories and showcases the way addiction crosses all geographic, economic, racial, ethnic and religious boundaries.
"We want to raise awareness about the impact of the opioid crisis on Tennesseans and demonstrate this issue affects people in every county and every community across our state. We wanted to literally put a 'face' on the crisis and show how it is impacting real people in Tennessee - our friends, families, coworkers, neighbors - and also show what people are doing in their communities to combat the problem," said TDH Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP. "We are so grateful to those sharing their stories as a way to give hope to others who may be struggling with substance abuse and connect people with resources in their communities."
While no state in the country is immune to the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic, Tennessee has been particularly hard hit. The state routinely ranks among the highest for opioid prescribing and overdose deaths. The National Institute on Drug Abuse tallied 1,268 overdose deaths involving opioids in Tennessee in 2017 compared to less than 200 in 2002. The most recent figures put the rate of overdose deaths at 19.3 per 100,000 people in Tennessee, which is above the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000.
"We want to reduce stigma against those struggling with substance abuse and help people understand the disease of addiction can happen to anyone," Piercey continued. "We are reaching tens of thousands of Tennesseans by sharing these stories on our website and social media platforms, and the reactions include an outpouring of support for those who are in recovery from substance abuse," she said.
"We also want to empower Tennesseans to be part of the solutions by helping connect them with resources in their communities," she continued. "Everyone can be part of the solution to this problem."
Of course, Piercey added, providers play a large role in combating the problem and connecting patients to available supports. "We invite providers to visit our campaign website TNFacesofOpioids.com. They can request materials including our public service announcement videos to share with patients," she noted. "The site also provides information on community-based resources including safe drop-off sites for unwanted or expired medication that are available in every county across the state."
Piercey said the feedback thus far has been positive as the stories seem to really resonate with those who have seen the campaign. The "Tennessee Faces of the Opioid Crisis," which is scheduled to run through the end of this month, includes public service announcements, posters, and digital videos sharing personal perspectives from a variety of viewpoints including those battling addiction, family members, providers and community advocates.
To read the stories and learn more about the campaign and community-based resources, go online to TNFacesofOpioids.com.