Community Series Works to Eradicate Stigma Around Substance Use

(BEDFORD) – A new series has successfully shed light on the stigma around substance use in Lawrence County, organizers say.

Three years after the Lawrence County Health Department declared a state of emergency following a sharp rise in hepatitis C cases — and a year after county commissioners ended its needle exchange — providing resources for people with substance use disorders has remained a hot-button issue among locals.

IU School of Social Work assistant professor and Lawrence County resident John Keesler began planning “From Stigma to Hope” in November with his graduate-level class.

“With faculty support, the experience allowed students to hone their skills in working as members of a team and to collaborate with a community organization to deliver a quality presentation.  Often times, students work on presentations for a course that are delivered to their peers.  This opportunity took students to the next level and was something they engaged in above and beyond their coursework,” Keesler said.

The series, which spanned from April to May in three installments and received backing from the Hoosier Uplands Economic Development Corp., centered largely on themes of harm reduction — approaches and strategies that reduce the harm caused by substance use — and stigma.