King County Launches “Don’t Count Us Out” Campaign to Reduce Stigma around Substance Use Disorder



Summary

A new public campaign, called “Don’t Count Us Out,” has launched across King County. The campaign aims to reduce stigma against people living with and recovering from substance use disorder.

Story

Public Health – Seattle & King County and King County Department of Community and Human Services (DHCS) announced today a new public health campaign called “Don’t Count Us Out.” In the United States, more than 22 million people with substance use disorder (SUD) have recovered, but around 90 percent of people with SUD still don’t seek treatment due to fear of judgment and shame.

To help reduce the stigma around those experiencing SUD, Public Health Seattle & King County and DCHS collaborated to launch a health education campaign across communications channels most frequently accessed by adults, including billboards, social media, streaming services, and local television.

“Don’t Count Us Out” billboards launched in October across 32 locations in King County, with the remaining communications channels launching today, including social media messaging on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

“When we end the silence around substance use disorder, it’s powerful to see not only how common addiction is, but also how common recovery is. People can and do get better and go on to accomplish their life goals and contribute to their community,” said Executive Constantine. “However, far too many do not seek out the treatment that will help them move forward from fear of judgment and shame. By showing our support and reducing the stigma around treatment, we can help more people access the tools they need to recover.”

“Don’t Count Us Out” breaks down misconceptions by showing recovery is possible, along with ways each of us can support those with SUD, including how to use supportive language, have helpful conversations, share local resources, and show support on social media. The campaign was developed based on insights gained from research findings and message testing conducted with King County adults in 2022 and was funded by $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn.

“I proposed this campaign because I know firsthand how critical it is to have support on your recovery journey. Many people do not know that I am active in recovery from alcohol abuse, and I have achieved many years of sobriety. I am so very lucky to have the support of my family, friends, and recovery community. Their support is what made the real difference in helping me reclaim my life,” said Councilmember Regan Dunn. “I realized from this experience that in order to empower those who are battling addiction to take that big step and get treatment, we need to give them encouragement and hope—not judgement or scorn. That’s what this campaign is about.”

“Addiction has touched the lives of many of us, including of family members and friends, and recovery can be difficult and also transformative,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles. “Individuals struggling with substance use disorder are not alone, but connected to a community that not only cares, but is filled with people who have experienced, witnessed, and overcome similar struggles. Stigma should never be a reason for someone to choose not to reach out for the supports they need to move forward, and by speaking out loudly through this campaign, I hope we can remind them that this journey is nothing about which to feel ashamed.”

Key Highlights

  • Recovery isn’t rare: 1 in 10 adults reports being in recovery from SUD, according to a 2017 research study.

  • Addiction isn’t isolated to a small group of people: 46 percent, or almost half of Americans, have a close friend or loved one who has struggled with an addiction.

  • Addiction is a health condition that needs treatment: 90 percent of people with addiction, however, never seek treatment mainly due to fear of judgment and shame.

  • Relapse happens less than you might think: 1-4 times is the average most people relapse before achieving sustained recovery.

  • Addiction doesn’t define someone’s future: 80 percent go on to accomplish at least one major life achievement, such as getting a job, finding a home, volunteering, or graduating.

  • Support makes a difference: With more support, more people recover.

The launch of the campaign comes on the heels of the late-September announcement from King County Executive Dow Constantine and a regional coalition of leaders to address the behavioral health crisis by creating a countywide network of five crisis care centers, investing in the recruitment and retention of the community behavioral health workforce, and restoring the number of residential treatment beds in the region. The plan would be funded by a nine-year property tax levy and, if approved by the King County Council, will be submitted to voters for approval in April 2023.

To learn more about the “Don’t Count Us Out” campaign, substance use disorder and how you can support recovery, go to www.SupportAddictionRecovery.com. If someone is looking to begin their recovery process the Washington Recovery Helpline is available 24/7 at www.warecoveryhelpline.org or 1-866-789-1511.

Quotes

“What we know is that recovery looks different for everyone. It’s not always a linear process, and can take countless twists and turns,” said Brad Finegood, Strategic Advisor on Behavioral Health. “For those individuals in the community who may be struggling with substance use disorder, know there’s hope. The shame and stigma of living with substance use disorder, or knowing someone living with substance use disorder, can be overcome if we recognize that addiction is a health condition with many treatment options, including medications, that can make the recovery journey possible. Don’t feel ashamed to reach out, know how courageous you are.”

“Recovery happens every day. With the right supports, recovery is not only possible – it's the likely outcome,” said Kelli Nomura, Director of King County DCHS’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Division. “People’s mental health has suffered and substance use is on the rise since the start of the pandemic. As more people talk openly, we see how substance use disorders can affect any of us, but that it doesn’t have to determine our future. Connection and community are among our most potent antidotes, so don’t underestimate the difference you make when you voice your support.”