Marion County Public Health Department launches campaign to support substance use disorder sufferers

Published on Thursday, 27 February 2020 16:00

Effort aims to alter stigma and promote availability of naloxone

For Immediate Release
Feb. 27, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS – On Feb. 27, the Marion County Public Health Department launched a campaign aimed at reducing the stigma associated with substance use disorder in Marion County. Virginia A. Caine, M.D., director of the Marion County Public Health Department, was joined by Indianapolis City-Council President Vop Osili in announcing a new campaign by the department focused on supporting affected Hoosiers and their families and friends.

With an increase in opioid-related overdoses across Marion County, the “What are friends for?” campaign reminds us that substance use disorder can happen to any of us or our loved ones. Starting in March, the campaign will show compassion and understanding can change the stigma around this disorder and provide resources to those in need.

“This is a national conversation to not only demonstrate compassion and understanding but more importantly to save lives right here at home,” Dr. Caine said. “Indianapolis is one of four cities awarded funding to invest in an area of need in the community, and this is where we see the most need and want to create the most change.”

Funded by the National Association of County and City Health Officials’ Integrating Overdose Prevention Strategies at the Local Level (IOPSLL) grant, Indianapolis was chosen to implement prevention and response strategies to help communities save lives.

Substance use disorder is a chronic medical condition that requires treatment and can affect anyone. The campaign will raise awareness of the disorder and emphasize the legality of carrying naloxone, a federally-approved medication used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Naloxone is available at many pharmacies in Marion County and can be obtained by anyone who believes someone they know is at risk of an opioid overdose. The Marion County Public Health Department also provides naloxone to residents who attend free trainings on how to administer the drug.

“Opioid-related incidents continue to climb at alarming rates in our community,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. “Campaigns like the one launched today by the Marion County Public Health Department are how we begin to change the trajectory of these tragic incidents and directly reach residents in need of treatment, services, and support.”

Recent opioid-related incidents in Marion County include:

“This is a positive step toward combatting a public health crisis that continues to impact communities across the nation,” said Osili. “The Marion County Public Health Department has done a tremendous job designing and implementing programs – supported largely by federal grants and not local tax dollars – that are making a difference in the daily lives of our fellow citizens. This new campaign is just the latest example, and I’m proud to support their efforts.”

The Marion County Public Health Department conducted preliminary research to gauge residents’ attitudes regarding substance use disorder and knowledge of the legality of naloxone. Because of this research, the health department has a better understanding of current perceptions and the accompanying stigma that sufferers may face in the community so it can provide further assistance to those in need. At the campaign’s conclusion, secondary research will be conducted to measure the effectiveness of the “What are friends for?” campaign and evaluate the attitudes and perceptions of Marion County residents.

For more information on the National Association of County and City Health Officials’ IOPSLL grant, please visit .

For more information on substance use disorder and available resources, visit


About the Marion County Public Health Department
The Marion County Public Health Department (MCPHD) has served the residents and visitors of Marion County, Indiana, for more than 160 years. The area that MCPHD covers includes the City of Indianapolis, Beech Grove, Lawrence, Speedway and Southport. The mission of the department is to promote physical, mental and environmental health and prevent and protect against disease, injury and disability.

Media Contact:
Curt Brantingham
Media/Public Information Coordinator
317-221-2316 (o) │ 317-525-7450 (c)