Recently, I was honored to spend the day with some of the most inspiring and passionate people I’ve ever met. With a team from the Independence Blue Cross Foundation, I travelled to our nation’s capital for a unique event showcasing personal stories about the stigma of opioid ambassadors of the“Someone You Know” public health campaign.
These people from southeastern Pennsylvania shared intimate and inspirational stories about their personal battles with opioid addiction, supporting someone on a journey to recovery, or dealing with the loss of a loved one to an overdose. The event supported a broad plan to share the campaign, throughout the Delaware Valley and beyond.
The turnout from lawmakers was notable, especially considering their jam-packed Congressional schedules. Throughout the event, 11 House members from Pennsylvania stopped by to meet with the group and learn more about the campaign. Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey also took time for a chat and photos with the ambassadors on the Senate steps. Several lawmakers, including Rep. Dwight Evans, spoke at length with some of the ambassadors and watched their personal videos at one of the interactive mobile kiosks brought to DC for the occasion.
It’s exciting to see a campaign that explicitly addresses the stigma of addiction, which creates silent, but harsh barriers to recovery. “Someone You Know” overcomes these obstacles by encouraging hope and highlighting the human side of this horrible crisis. It drives home the point that we must end the shame, fear and isolation around substance-use disorder. As one ambassador, Michael, said, “We are not bad people trying to get good. We’re sick people trying to get well.”
The campaign has connected deeply with communities throughout southeastern PA through advertising, community outreach, and social media. Recently, it added a podcast.
What resonates most for me about “Someone You Know” is its inclusiveness. Addiction invades all walks of life, and doesn’t care about your race, your age, or your social or economic status. It has affected my family and many others I care about. We are all “Someone You Know.”
The campaign has also helped educate people about the root causes of opioid use disorder. It shows the importance of treating people with substance-use disorder the same as people with chronic illnesses like diabetes or heart disease. For every “Someone You Know” story, there are thousands more that don’t get shared. Those stories need to be heard, too. Open and honest conversations will go a long way to helping us save lives and mend families.
Chris Cashman, a board member for the Independence Blue Cross Foundation, also serves as a Senior Consultant for Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy.