FRANKFORT, Ky.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The opioid epidemic has deeply impacted the Commonwealth of Kentucky; however, recent data show a 5% decrease in the number of overdose deaths in 2022. Although more work needs to be done to address this public health crisis, particularly its impact on people of color, the state has made gains in breaking down the stigma of addiction and increasing awareness of treatment accessibility.
One campaign helping with those efforts is UNSHAME Kentucky, an evidence-based public health campaign that leverages community-driven stories of individuals impacted by substance use disorders (SUDs) to reduce addiction-related stigma. UNSHAME Kentucky launched last year and is the result of a partnership between the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE) and Shatterproof.
“Stigma prevents many from seeking treatment, erodes self-worth, fosters social isolation, and prevents the use of life-saving medications. More than 70% of Kentuckians know someone with opioid use disorder (OUD),” said Courtney McKeon, vice president for Shatterproof’s National Stigma Initiative. “Through these stories, the campaign strives to inspire hope, connection, and community to improve attitudes toward individuals with OUD and, ultimately, remove barriers to care.”
“We think a significant contributor to the success of UNSHAME KY is the story-driven approach of the campaign,” said Adam Trosper, KORE’s State Opioid Coordinator. “We’re proud to elevate the voices of those with lived experiences in showing the true impact of stigma on the lives of Kentuckians.”
The data-informed campaign, UNSHAME Kentucky began with more than four months of preparation and research. A foundational piece of that research assessed the knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of Kentuckians regarding OUD and treatment through a representative sample of the state’s adult population. After twelve months of campaign activity, the survey was repeated to measure change in stigma, and the results were promising. Kentuckians who saw the UNSHAME Kentucky campaign held significantly lower levels of stigma toward people with OUDs compared to those who did not see the campaign.
UNSHAME Kentucky demonstrated a sizeable reach, with an estimated 14% of adult Kentuckians — more than 472,000 adults — exposed to the campaign in its first year. The campaign engaged 78 community organizations, partnered with 24 digital influencers, collected 40 stories of Kentuckians impacted by SUD, and achieved more than 12.7 million social media impressions. Overall, seeing the campaign was associated with more than 10% lower public stigma than that of people who did not see the campaign.
Germaine, a resident of Taylor County, shared his story with the campaign: “I was really able to see that addiction wasn't the end, that there were a lot of opportunities out there for me, and that eventually my story would be able to resonate with other people and really, truly help someone.”
UNSHAME Kentucky is especially encouraging for increasing education, awareness and access to treatment and harm reduction initiatives within the local community. Those exposed to the campaign are more confident they can find treatment for OUD — 2.5 times more likely to report knowing how to find quality treatment for an OUD (71%) compared to unexposed individuals (29%). Additionally, people exposed to the campaign are 250% more likely to know where to find and how to use naloxone in the event of an overdose and 150% more likely to understand that medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) is an effective form of treatment.
The campaign’s second year aims to reach more Kentuckians, specifically Black communities, who have seen an increase in overdoses. Additionally, the campaign will work to further decrease stigma and increase awareness of the risks posed by the increasing spread of fentanyl.
Data sources: Modified Shatterproof Addiction Stigma Index (SASI) Surveys provided by UNSHAME Kentucky
ABOUT Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE): Kentucky Opioid Response Effort (KORE) seeks to expand and sustain a comprehensive, equitable recovery-oriented system of care to end the opioid epidemic in Kentucky. Funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, KORE supports the implementation of over 200 evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery programs across the commonwealth.
ABOUT UNSHAME KENTUCKY:
UNSHAME Kentucky is a statewide campaign to destigmatize opioid use disorder (OUD) by providing education on OUD-related topics and sharing the stories of people whose lives have been affected by opioid use disorder and those who serve those communities. By learning their stories, we come to understand that opioid use disorder is something that can affect any of us and that no one should struggle with it alone.
Shatterproof is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to reversing the addiction crisis in the U.S. Shatterproof is focused on guiding communities, removing systemic barriers to recovery, mobilizing the country to advocate for change, and ending addiction stigma in the U.S.. Find Shatterproof on Facebook, X, and YouTube @ShatterproofHQ or follow us on Instagram at @weareshatterproof. To learn more, visit www.Shatterproof.org. If you are experiencing anxiety, depression, or a substance use disorder, text SHATTERPROOF to 741741 for help.