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Opioid Stigma Campaign Could Improve Treatment Access

Ryan Flanery
Indiana FSSA Secretary Jennifer Walthall

Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration or FSSA recently launched a campaign to reduce stigma surrounding opioid addiction, focusing on three ideas.

The first thing to understand, says FSSA Secretary Jennifer Walthall, is that addiction is a neurological disorder, a disease.

"That doesn’t make it good or bad, it just makes it what it is, a disease process," says Walthall. "The second correlate to that is there is treatment."

The third part of the message is that recovery is possible.

The stigma reduction effort is an awareness campaign that aims to reach Hoosiers through an online platform and education programs. Walthall says for people suffering from addiction, stigma can be a barrier to treatment.

"Maybe you don’t feel particularly comfortable in that office because you’re getting some looks," says Walthall. "Maybe the language being used by the intake nurse around being an addict makes you never really want to go back there."

Walthall says other state efforts in the opioid epidemic can work more effectively once the lessons of the stigma reduction campaign are ingrained.

"When you start with education and knowledge and how that then flows into connectivity with other people, I think we can really start to see a difference," says Walthall.

It’s supported by federal funds to fight the opioid epidemic.