By Mark Powell
Don't Live in Denial
Denial, OH is not an actual place, but it is a truly dangerous state of mind, the kind that the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance is determined to expose.
The opioid addiction crisis is too large for any one entity or sector to combat alone. Government efforts can’t do it. Prevention and treatment can’t do it. Law enforcement and the courts can’t do it. The problem is just too big, and too serious, for any single approach to work, which is why there is power in alliances.
Nationwide’s CEO wanted his company to get involved in the community and do what it could to help. So, the Nationwide Foundation partnered with the Franklin County, ADAMH board (Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health) and the Columbus Foundation to look at issues in their area. “A successful campaign needs a solid focus,” points out Chad Jester, President of Nationwide Foundation. “And the focus was quickly established.”
The group noticed a lot of work was being done in the treatment and recovery areas and thought it was important to help the next generation avoid the pitfall of addiction. Three key points were soon identified:
Parents inadvertently supply many drugs.
80 percent of heroin users start with pills.
If you talk to kids about drug use, they’re 50 percent less likely to misuse drugs.
Based on those findings, the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance was formed in June 2018. It emerged as part of the Franklin County Opiate Action Plan and unites over 80 public and private entities to amplify the prevention message. It does that by providing information and resources to help prevent the next generation from misusing prescription opioids.
The Alliance’s biggest campaign is called “Denial, OH.” Research found people are aware of opioid issues, but they don’t believe it will happen to their child. Only 19 percent believe addiction could occur in their family (which, incidentally, is the same percentage of people who think a family member will die in a plane crash). Focus groups repeatedly heard comments such as, “Not my kid,” “My kid is a good kid,” “My son has good friends,” “My daughter would tell me anything,” etc. Those remarks were used to create ads urging parents not to live in “Denial, OH” and to talk to their kids about opioids.
Initially, that campaign only ran in central Ohio. Then it spread to Toledo, Cincinnati and elsewhere. The governor recently allocated funds to take the campaign statewide.
The Alliance also distributes prescription drug disposal pouches so people can safely throw out drugs. They’re offered to employers around the state and placed in locations you wouldn’t necessarily think of, such as open houses, foster care systems, and libraries.
Simply, the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance is as Jester puts it, “a mission that everyone can rally behind.” And Denial, OH is a place where no one should live.
Ohio Opioid Education Alliance was a featured award winner in the 2019 Innovation Now project of the Addiction Policy Forum.
J. Mark Powell is an author, former network journalist, and veteran communications expert.