Evergreen Treatment Services

Reframing the conversation about opioid addiction and treatment

Description

Evergreen Treatment Services (ETS) is a non-profit organization that provides innovative and transformative treatment and wraparound services for people suffering with heroin and other opioid use disorders in Western Washington. For nearly 45 years, ETS has been restoring the lives of one of the most stigmatized and vulnerable groups of people in our community with evidence-based, compassionate care. Because of the lack of understanding of addiction as a medical condition, people who have use disorders are routinely stereotyped and denigrated by the public, and by healthcare providers. They are called addicts, junkies, and crackheads. Yet in reality, they suffer from a condition that is often hereditary, and treatable.

Having faced a long history of community backlash for more than 40 years, Evergreen Treatment Services was reluctant to be more vocal about their work. However, as the death toll from opioid overdose continued to increase, the leadership decided that they need to challenge this stigma head on on behalf of their patients.

Challenge

People in the US are dying of opioid overdoses in record numbers. Yet in the midst of this crisis, providers of medication-assisted treatment – the most effective form of treatment for people with addiction – face significant challenges. Resistance to this type of treatment stems from common misconceptions about opioid addiction including preconceived notions about why people use and who those people are. In addition, community members – business owners, police officers, homeowners – may recognize the effectiveness of treatment, but often do not want clinics in their neighborhoods, stemming from unfounded fears that a clinic will drive up crime and draw people who use drugs to their neighborhoods.

Work

Using data from various expert sources and the personal stories of ETS patients and staff, Minerva developed a suite of collateral materials to educate people about opioid use disorders and to help them get to know the brave people who face this condition daily. These materials include a new website, a variety of print materials for public events, video profiles of patients, and most recently a blog for sharing their work.

In addition to developing effective materials, we have worked to ensure the media sees ETS as an expert resource on Washington’s opioid challenge. This relationship building has resulted in several thoughtful pieces on ETS over the last three years, including several pieces on KUOW (local NPR affiliate), interviews on the local NBC affiliate, King 5, opinion pieces in The Seattle Times, and a place on panels at media-led public talks.

Results

Evergreen Treatment Services faces a significant uphill battle in the years to come. Despite this administration’s claim to provide more help to communities ravaged by opioid use, support for the most effective treatment available is lacking, particularly for those who need public funding. With our continued support, Evergreen Treatment Services is armed with the tools needed to garner the political and financial backing necessary to continue their life-saving work in Western Washington.