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Can Collective Impact Projects Reduce Substance Abuse in Local Communities Adversely Affected by the Opioid Crisis?

Posted by Joe Antle on January 16, 2021 2:55 PM EST
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In every region and every community in the land, substance abuse from alcohol and drugs is creating long term problems....

...what are some ways to get started that can make an impact in a local community or region?

My son-in-law Phil Townsend recommended that I formalize my thinking regarding a concept that has been taking shape over a fairly long period of time.  He, like I, believe there could be an important role that traditional local news media can play in gettting the word out about things that are working in substance use disorder recovery.  Building community awareness about the positive things that are happening and promoting acceleration of more activity across more market segments of what is working naturally could lead to an effective, results-oriented local community/region collective impact initiative.

The idea behind the concept I will share and present in this blog post today initially germinated a while ago when I was an advertising executive with Media General and had the responsibility to design and promote new concepts in Media General’s “strategic market areas” (SMAs/ADIs where the company had a newspaper and a TV station).  In order to generate new revenues and serve as community stewards, we focused on topic areas which were related to local/regional socio-economic problems.  The most attractive ideas were ones where we could generate new revenues outside of our traditional categories and ones that could be easily expanded to other markets where we had media assets.   

The growing problems of healthcare, substance abuse, economic disadvantage and poverty, and the underperforming public education systems were big opportunities in virtually every market.  While at the time, we didn’t have effective strategies that could be developed locally and expanded easily across our “strategic footprint”, the general idea of combining community awareness, recovery education and solutions seemed appealing, at least at a concept level.  We just did not have a way to select which of these issues to focus on.  And there seemed to be more pressing concerns around keeping our focus on the traditional lines of business.  (Those concerns have obviously escalated among traditional local media executives in newspapers, TV, and magazines in the last decade).  On top of all of that, there was a raging recession that was doing particularly significant damage to the financials of traditional local media outlets such as television stations and newspapers.

After some deep thinking and lots of discussions over the last few years, I have begun to congeal some specific ideas around a concept that has been a proven method of generating community-wide awareness and impact.  After discussions with old media buddies, friends in the substance use disorder community and average folks, I think we have a concept that can work. 

As most people know, the opioid crisis is much in the news these days.  And the impact of alcoholism, poor health due to alcohol and drug use and the ruin of lives and livelihoods is itself a crisis-of epic and increasing proportions.  In advance of many of my meetings, I’ve often sent several documents which describe the concept in more detail:

While you can see from the two links below, the idea of a regional summit is not new in Hampton Roads.  What is new is the concept of opening the summit up to a wider range of interested attendees, and to use the summit as a way to raise awareness, raise funding for raising a collective impact initiative aimed at the "overshot" portion of the market.

https://www.wavy.com/news/evms-mental-health-summit-to-focus-on-opioid-addiction/1061164384

https://www.13newsnow.com/article/news/health/evms-hosts-summit-on-mental-health-opioid-crisis/291-438108323

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