Franklin County Public Health launches campaign to fight stigma of addiction

Earl Hopkins
ThisWeek group
Lindsey Rodenhauser, the addiction-services supervisor at Franklin County Public Health, writes a message on a "support wall" after the Oct. 21 announcement of Franklin County Public Health's Recover for Life campaign.

To thwart public misconceptions about drug and alcohol addiction and recovery, Franklin County Public Health launched the Recover for Life campaign Oct. 21.

This anti-stigma initiative is part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Overdose Data to Action grant awarded to the county health department in September 2019. The three-year CDC grant provides more than $3 million annually to fight the opioid crisis and confront the disease of addiction.

From January to June, the county coroner's office reported 437 deaths from overdoses, a grim increase of 73% from the same period in 2019. Fentanyl and heroin-related deaths accounted for 90% of the total, with cocaine and methamphetamine remaining contributing factors.

Franklin County health commissioner Joe Mazzola said the grant allows the department to support the Recover for Life campaign and its prevention strategies, while also promoting collaboration and data sharing in alignment with the city and county's addiction plan.

"We have the resources and treatment options to help every Franklin County resident,"  Mazzola said during the press conference. "Recover for Life's mission is to elevate that conversation, and today we're asking every Franklin County resident to invest in this mission."

Aimee Wissman, who recovered from heroin addiction, said she is hopeful the campaign will provide the resources needed to confront a health crisis that has plagued the community.

"It seems like they're finally approaching addiction now from more of a community-based approach," Wissman said. "The fact that they're recognizing it's really a need for the community, I'm hoping that means resources come into the community to deal with either addiction, mental health or some of the related issues."

To complement the launch of the program, the department unveiled a new mural in Franklinton. Artist Amy Haggard said the massive painting acts as a "support wall" for residents in the process of recovery and encourages them to make a pledge to help end the stigma surrounding addiction.

"This is an outlet," Haggard said, "and by being able to sign the mural and being able to write a message, it helps people begin that healing process within themselves and their families."

Haggard said the two weeks she spent researching and then painting the mural heightened her awareness on the issue. Her intent was to reframe other's thoughts on addiction and push the larger community to come together to address the staggering health issue.

"This is just going to shed light on the issue, and show people the resources out there if they're struggling or in need of help," she said. 

For more information on the program, go to the Recover for Life website, recoverforlife.myfcph.org.

ehopkins@dispatch.com

@Earl_Hopkins1