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Can Collective Impact Projects Reduce Substance Abuse in Local Communities?

Posted by Joe Antle on January 11, 2019 12:15 PM EST
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In every community and region 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.



By the way, did anyone out there happen to catch the “60 Minutes” interview that was done by CBS journalist Bill Whittaker who interviewed at length Mike Moore, lead attorney on the efforts to create restitution through the legal system for the opioid crisis?  His interview is impressive.  Mr. Moore is going for a settlement against all opioid pharmaceutical and intermediary distribution companies and perhaps prescribing doctors of $100 billion dollars to provide opioid addiction treatment services for those who are addicted but have not died yet from their opioid addiction through overdoses.

These treatments, if the class action suit is won and the dollars are spent, are likely to be invested in regional treatment services-likely administered through the states. On the other hand, who knows at this early juncture?  Anyway, Mike Moore and Bill Whitaker's "60 Minutes" segment suggests that if the suit is won, and if the legal team winning it provides the settlement(s) to the treatment for those affected by the epidemic and still alive, the dollars going through the system to regional treatment providers will be substantial-by Mr. Moore's estimate they could exceed $100 billion U.S.  And it’s likely that the measure will be results (participants/patients who “graduate” a recovery and education program, not simply services rendered but participants who successfully “graduate” or gain control of their addiction….some dollars may even flow into those “recovered ‘ addicts becoming “recovery coaches”, “care coordinators” or some other part of the next phase of continuing care treatment solutions.

Here’s the link to the CBS “60 Minutes” interview video with attorney Mike Moore.  (It looks like the CBS 60 Minutes reporter Bill Whittaker has aired a few segments over the last several years on the opioid crisis.  This one is by far the most powerful…(IMHO).


These treatments, if the class action suit is won and the dollars are spent, are likely to be invested in regional treatment services,  don’t you think?  Would there be a better trigger and strategic use for these class action suit related treatment services dollars than regionally-centered substance use disorder collective impact projects?  As they say in TV....stay tuned for more interesting news to follow in the future!

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