Reducing stigma—through words, art, tools, and more
Stigma often stands in the way of treatment and prevention of substance use disorders (SUDs) in rural communities. Three Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) Rural Centers of Excellence (RCOEs) created by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) are working together to reduce this stigma and remove barriers to best practices related to SUDs.
Each RCOE is approaching this common goal from a different angle. Details about each RCOE’s initiatives are below, along with links to resources. We’re updating this site as new tools are released. We hope the scope and variety of tools will make for a robust storehouse of resources your community can draw from.
In May 2022, the center is hosting a national summit focused on stigma and health equity. Learn more and register.
Approaches and tools
The Fletcher Group Rural Center of Excellence provides evidence-based technical assistance focused on recovery housing to 116 rural counties in ten states, from West Virginia to Oregon. Because stigma can be even more punishing in less populated areas, our outreach and engagement specialists employ a direct community-engagement strategy to help manage and combat stigma, discrimination, and NIMBYism. We support first-person, nondiscriminatory language in all substance use disorder and criminal justice spaces; promote justice and correctional initiatives to decriminalize substance use; work to reduce neonatal abstinence syndrome and educate physicians and staff regarding beliefs and prescription practices when serving those with opioid use disorders who may need medication to assist in treatment, including pregnant women. Together with our fellow esteemed RCOEs, we are proud to be part of this important collaborative effort to address the critical issue of rural stigma. To learn more about the RCOE at the Fletcher Group, please visit fletchergroup.org.
Stigma and Best Practices in Rural and Urban Communities, Dr. Ernie Fletcher, American Bar Association Opioid Summit, May 2021
UR Medicine Recovery Center of Excellence is humanizing the opioid crisis through an art campaign in rural Appalachian communities. Individuals impacted by opioid use disorder (OUD) are meeting with an artist to have their portraits painted. Volunteers such as peers, family members, and prescribers are sharing how stigma has impacted their path to treatment or to helping others on their path. Portraits include volunteers’ words to further tell their stories and humanize the crisis. The art is being displayed in spaces where it can inspire local conversations about stigma relating to OUD and medications for opioid use disorder. The art campaign also includes a community workshop and evaluation. With art as a starting point, workshop participants will share knowledge and come away with ideas for reducing stigma. The goal is for these conversations to carry on, leading to action and increased access to quality treatment.
The University of Vermont Center on Rural Addiction is excited to join our partner HRSA RCOEs in working to reduce substance use disorder stigma and its impact on care, treatment-seeking, and quality of life for those affected. Our approach includes arming providers with evidence-based tools to better address substance use disorders with their patients. Supplies we often provide include free phones for organizations to distribute to clients, which improve peoples’ access to treatment. In spring 2021, as part of our Community Rounds Workshop Series, we hosted sessions on stigma and the principles of harm reduction. In June 2021 we presented a webinar with Dr. Peter Jackson, a member of our Clinician Advisory Board: “Motivational Interviewing: Evidence-Based Strategies and Principles for Guiding Conversations with Your Patients.” To see recordings of these presentations and learn more about our offerings, please visit uvmcora.org/resources or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.