The Clark County Health Department is partnering with a local entrepreneur for a multimedia campaign to bring attention to substance use disorder and health disparities in Southern Indiana.
For the past year, Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel and Miguel Hampton have been discussing ways to promote health equity.
It started when they were on a committee together as part of a task force on racial disparities through One Southern Indiana, the local chamber of commerce. Yazel and Hampton wanted to make a difference.
“We sat down and talked about… what are some different opportunities that can be created in our own backyard, that begin to tell the story of what we face as a community?” said Hampton, who owns the marketing and photography company F5 Enterprises, LLC and has regularly taken part in community discussions on equity.
Now, the two are preparing for a series of community panels, podcasts and a short documentary. The project will help tackle addiction issues in the community, with a focus on equity and diversity.
This could include conversations with people who have been affected by substance use, those in recovery, providers and community representatives.
“In many ways, I want the story to kind of take a life of its own, and begin to present itself the way it presents itself,” Hampton said.
Overdose deaths have increased nationally and locally during the pandemic. Those spikes have been more pronounced for some minority groups.
A recent CDC report, which looked at data from 25 states and Washington, D.C., showed drug overdose deaths increased by 30% between 2019 and 2020. The 44% rise in deaths among Black people was double the rate for white people.
Indiana’s data wasn’t included in the analysis. But Yazel said the health department reported similarly high rates — about a 25% to 30% increase — at the local level during that time.
“We saw substance use disorder rates … across all demographics rise dramatically during the pandemic,” Yazel said. “But even more dramatic is that increase in our minority population.”
Answers to why some groups have been affected more aren’t simple, Yazel said. Multiple issues could be at play. And that’s part of what he hopes to learn during the series.
“You have to really look at so many factors in your community, whether it be housing insecurity, food insecurity, economic opportunity,” he said. “All those things factor into this.”
Hampton added that he hopes the series will also address the stigma around substance use, which affects all demographics.
“When we see someone who is struggling, we’re quick to pass judgment,” he said. “We don’t have the empathy to say, ‘What if that was me? What if that was my mom? What if that was my dad? What if that was my sister? What would I do different?’ We are one community and it affects all of us.”
Yazel and Hampton expect to kick off the awareness campaign in the coming months.
Hampton said they could start recording the podcast within the next month. The first season could include about 10 to 12 episodes.
“And [the] goal will be to launch them on as many possible channels as we can,” Hampton said. “My hope would be we’ll start filming between September, with the idea that maybe we’ll be done filming in November, and then we’ll be able to go to the edit floor and maybe have a rough draft done by [the] end of December.”