For International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31, the Erie County Opiate Epidemic Task Force is providing guidance for media outlets and reporters, health care providers, law enforcement agencies, the justice system, community organizations and the general public to use person-centered, destigmatizing language in communications, professional settings and everyday conversation.
“When talking about issues of opioid use, substance use and overdoses, words matter,” Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said. “Stigmatizing language can be direct, like a health care provider referring to a patient as an ‘addict.’ It can be casual, like referring to someone in conversation as a ‘junkie’ or ‘user.’ That language can also be subtle, but just as damaging, as when a media outlet uses phrases like ‘dirty’ or ‘clean’ in reporting about toxicology results.”
As part of its media outreach, Erie County Opiate Epidemic Task Force is offering this guide from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) on using person-first, science-based language: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/addiction-science/words-matter-preferred-language-talking-about-addiction.
“We have come a long way in recent years toward reducing stigma and negative bias in communications about substance use disorder,” Erie County Opiate Epidemic Task Force Director Cheryll Moore said. “However, each week there is another reference in media or culture that goes against the work we are doing to destigmatize this chronic and deadly disease.”
ECDOH stated, “People with substance use disorder may already be managing this medical issue, and other social, psychological, economic and familial challenges.”
Burstein said, “We are asking our community to add a sense of empathy into the way they talk about substance use disorder. Compassion goes a long way.”
On Tuesday, Aug. 31, ECDOH and task force members will transform the front lawn of Old County Hall with a display to remember loved ones lost to overdose. This coincides with other events happening globally, acknowledging the widespread nature of substance use disorder.
A memorial display will be set up from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the corner of Franklin and Church streets in downtown Buffalo, on the lawn of Old County Hall at 92 Franklin. A closing prayer will be offered at 6 p.m.
This event is part of outreach by the family and consumer, support and advocacy section of the Erie County Opiate Epidemic Task Force.
Attendees must follow physical distancing guidance and wear a mask or cloth face covering.
Register for ECDOH opioid trainings at http://www.erie.gov/opioidtrainings; text for Narcan at 716-225-5473; or request an emergency Narcan Box for a business at 716-858-7695.