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Ohio launches statewide campaign to combat stigmas around addiction, mental illness

The "Beat The Stigma" campaign will feature advertisements, billboards, and social media outreach.
The "Beat The Stigma" campaign will feature advertisements, billboards, and social media outreach.

Governor Mike DeWine, along with health officials from across the state, announced a new campaign aiming to reduce the stigmas surrounding addiction and mental illness.

The "Beat The Stigma" campaign is the result of months of research and input from Ohio’s addiction and mental health experts. Nearly $10 million was committed to the campaign in February after Franklin County commissioners passed a resolution. It will include billboards, spots airing on television and outreach on digital platforms.

DeWine says addiction and mental health experts understand that these are diseases, not a moral failing or a result of weak character. He says the campaign attacks stigma directly.

"Stigma can be devastating to those who are living with these diseases," DeWine said. "Not only adding to the hardships of addiction and mental illness, but also preventing them from seeking the help they need to get well."

Erika Clark Jones is the CEO of the ADAMH Board of Franklin County. She says 1 in 3 Ohioans struggle with addiction. A similar number struggles with mental illness. She says family history plays a role in addiction.

"Fifty percent of an individual's risk for developing addiction is determined by your genes," Jones said. "If you knew your child had an elevated risk of any other serious disease, wouldn't you talk about it with that child? The same should apply to addiction and mental illness."

According to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, drug overdose deaths in the state outpaced the national average from 2000 to 2020. Analysis from Harm Reduction Ohio shows Black Ohioans die from overdoses at higher rates than white residents. RecoveryOhio Director Alisha Nelson says the campaign aims to create conversations to challenge stereotypes surrounding addiction within communities.

"We want to make sure that we are coupling this campaign with prevention efforts, harm reduction efforts, treatment, and all of that has been targeted to make sure that we're reaching communities of color in an intentional way," Nelson said.

Organizations involved with the public-private partnership include the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, RecoveryOhio, ADAMH Board of Franklin County, Ohio Opioid Education Alliance, and the Nationwide Foundation.

You can view the launch of "Beat The Stigma" including an advertisement created for the campaign below:

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.