April 30 2024 0comment

United Way Awards Grants to Organizations to Enhance Education About Substance Use Disorders

The United Way of the Wabash Valley’s Substance Use Disorder Impact Council has awarded $24,000 to organizations to help educate our communities about substance use disorders and reduce stigma and the associated negative attitudes and behavior around them. These grant awards will help support creative, innovative initiatives that increase awareness and knowledge about substance use disorders.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 7 Americans—or more than 20 million people—report experiencing a substance use disorder, and more than 500,000 are Hoosiers. Moreover, the U.S. has experienced a devastating rise in drug overdose deaths in recent years. Between 1999 and 2020, more than 800,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, and escalating rates of drug addiction have contributed to recent decreases in U.S. life expectancy.

While substance use disorders are not rare, neither is recovery. With proper support, people with a substance use disorder can recover. However, several obstacles exist in our community that interfere with the care that people need and make recovery very difficult to achieve. One major barrier to treatment and recovery in our community is a negative bias against people with substance use disorders. Such biases—sometimes referred to as “stigma”—can lead to behaviors, policies, and practices that discriminate against people with substance use disorders. Recognizing the enormous challenge that stigma poses to recovery, United Way of the Wabash Valley is committed to investing in education and awareness initiatives that reduce negative biases toward addiction and overdose.

The United Way awarded two organizations through this grant program.  The first awardee is Mental Health America of West Central Indiana, Inc. with their program “Educating About Substance Use Disorders”. This program will deliver evidence-based education to healthcare workers, law enforcement, EMS personnel, and K-12 teachers, professionals who potentially interact every day with people struggling with substance use. By doing so, the program aims to empower these professionals to continually improve how they meet the needs and offer services to individuals with substance use disorders and their families, fostering an environment of support rather than perpetuating stigma. Mental Health America of West Central Indiana looks to reach up to 1,000 professionals from health care, law enforcement, EMS personnel, and K-12 educators and staff in Clay, Parke, Sullivan, Vermillion, and Vigo Counties.

The second awardee of the grant is Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College with their program Pomeroy Promise: Addressing Substance Use Disorder Education and Stigma at SMWC. To learn more about and address substance use issues on the SMWC campus, the United Way grant funds will facilitate the purchase of a year-long campus membership to the Higher Education Center for Alcohol Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery (HECAOD), which includes unlimited use of three substance use screening tools (alcohol use, cannabis use, and prescription drug use), educational materials, and webinars. Further programming and an anti-stigma social norms campaign, called Pomeroy Promise, will also be developed to address gaps in education and misinformation about substance use disorders on campus. Advertising, website development, social media campaigns, email campaigns, and print resources will all be utilized to share and engage with the information to reduce stigma, educate, and encourage non-judgmental, empathetic community support from students, faculty, staff, administration, and other stakeholders. Over 1,000 students and over 450 staff will be impacted by the Pomeroy Promise initiative.

Abby Desboro, Executive Director of the United Way of the Wabash Valley, stated, “Substance use disorders is a treatable disease, yet people who are struggling face negative attitudes and stigma that make it difficult for them to seek treatment.  We can all play a part in helping our community by learning more about addiction and changing how we talk about it.  Through these new programs, United Way seeks to reduce barriers to treatment and help people recover and live happy, fulfilling lives.”