Lift the Label campaign continues to address stigma around addiction and barriers for people needing help
The Lift the Label campaign has launched a new website featuring stories from Coloradans who have gone through addiction, treatment and recovery.
Lift the Label is a social norming campaign that began in 2018 as a project under the Colorado Behavioral Health Administration. The initiative aims to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction, which Deputy Communications Director Charlotte Whitney said is a major barrier that prevents people with a substance use disorder from getting help.
“We want people who tell their stories as a part of the campaign to feel seen and feel worthy,” Whitney explained of the campaign. “When other people hear those stories, it can help them see that recovery is possible.”
The website features videos of Coloradans sharing their stories about substance use. Whitney said the largest audiences for the campaign might be loved ones and professionals in behavioral health fields, but that there’s value for the general public.
“One of the biggest messages from our website is to break down stigma,” Whitney said.
One of the stories featured comes from JK Costello, a doctor who has personal experience in addiction, treatment and recovery. Costello said it’s important for him to share his story, especially in the medical community, because there is stigma around doctors and addiction.
The campaign emphasizes that addiction doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone regardless of their race, gender, identity, age, geographic location, sexual orientation or income. Whitney said that this year the campaign is heavily focused on helping communities and family members build a support network that can help people access treatment and recovery options.
A focus of the campaign this year will be launching information about CRAFT, a family training system that can help remove the shame and judgment for families who are dealing with addiction. Whitney said that providing that support can motivate someone to get help themselves.
Another aspect of the outreach effort is to show people going through addiction and their loved ones that treatment is accessible.
Whitney said many people say that access to treatment and affordability are barriers to getting help. But there are grant programs that can help uninsured, underinsured or low-income residents receive treatment.
According to Whitney, since the campaign’s inception in 2018, it has reached more than 500 million impressions and become recognized as a successful model for breaking down stigma and raising awareness about substance use disorders.
“One of the biggest things to come out of Lift the Label is the Recovery Card Project,” Whitney said. “We were hearing from the public that people don’t know what to say when someone is in recovery (and) people don’t know what to say when a loved one dies due to an overdose. Because of personal barriers, people don’t know how to approach the subject.”
In a partnership with people who live in Colorado who are in recovery, Lift the Label has worked to create cards for people facing substance use disorders or their families. The cards feature artwork from people in recovery and sentiments that helped them early in the process.
Whitney said one memorable card features a phoenix on the front with a message inside about how out of the darkest places, we find the brightest lights. Over 80,000 cards have been distributed through the project, with cards available online or locally at The Health Partnership, 555 Breeze St., in Craig.
Also, new to the campaign this year is an effort — and stories — to raise awareness around the overdose reversal drug, naloxone. As the prevalence of fentanyl continues to increase across the state, Lift the Label is working to increase education and awareness for community members and organizations about overdose prevention.
To learn more about the campaign, go to LiftTheLabel.org. Anyone wanting to request more information or share their story, can fill out the contact form. Go to RecoveryCardsProject.com to order cards.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct several details.
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