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King County earns national Achievement Award for Council-backed ‘Don’t Count Us Out’ substance use disorder, recovery stigma reduction campaign


King County’s Don’t Count Us Out campaign has been recognized with an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo).


King County’s Don’t Count Us Out campaign has been recognized with an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo). The awards honor innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents.

“We know that fear of judgement and scorn is one of the biggest factors that prevent people from seeking treatment for a substance use disorder,” said King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “This is why I wanted to see this campaign take place — to increase everyone’s awareness that, with help and support, recovery is possible for all. I am grateful to the National Association of Counties for their recognition of this important message and hope it will encourage other counties to put similar programs in place.”

The Don’t Count Us Out campaign seeks to reduce public stigma against those with active substance use disorder as well as those in active recovery. Dunn, in collaboration with Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, proposed the "Don’t Count Us Out” initiative and championed $500,000 in funding for it in King County’s 2021 mid-biennial supplemental budget.

“We have extremely effective treatments for people who are living with substance use disorder. This includes medications to treat opioid use disorder,” said Brad Finegood, Strategic Advisor for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “But we know that all too often, people struggling with substance use disorder face stigma that makes it that more difficult to access support when people are ready.  The goal of this campaign is to let the community know that there is help available and people do recover.”

The campaign, launched by Public Health – Seattle & King County and the King County Department of Community and Human Services, in coordination with the King County Council and Behavior Change Agency Rescue, provides health-focused information and education campaigns consisting of media on connected TV, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, billboards, and streaming audio that led consumers to the website, which contains science-based facts, statistics, and general information about substance use disorder and recovery. With an 82% reach to the targeted audience based on impressions, clicks, GIF/video/audio completions, and website engagements, the campaigns were effective in exposing a majority of the 1.48 million adults in King County to stigma reduction messaging.

The goal of these campaigns was to educate and motivate a targeted audience of King County adults ages 19-65 to encourage them to reappraise their negative views of those with a substance use disorder and instead recognize that recovery from substance use disorder is always possible. “Don’t Count Us Out” shares relevant information such as this study that shows 80% of people who suffer from addiction are able to go on to achieve major life goals such as having a job or getting an education. The campaign emphasizes research that shows receiving encouragement and emotional support makes a huge difference for people seeking recovery, because fear of judgement and shame stops 90% of people with an addiction from seeking the help they need.

“I continually am in awe of the vulnerability, discipline, strength, and hope of those engaged in efforts to overcome and recover from substance use disorders and am so pleased to have played a part in the growth and evolution of this campaign,” Kohl-Welles said. “It is high time that the stigma adjoined to substance use disorders is dismantled by empowerment and education and reconstructed with empathy and humanity.”

Each year, NACo’s Achievement Awards are given in 18 categories that reflect the vast, comprehensive services counties provide. The categories include children and youth, criminal justice and public safety, county administration, information technology, health, civic engagement and more. Launched in 1970, the program is designed to recognize innovation in county government. Each nominated program is judged on its own merits and not against other applications.

“The Achievement Awards demonstrate excellence in county government and the commitment to serve our residents every day,” said NACo President Denise Winfrey. “This year’s winners represent some of the most innovative and collaborative efforts we have seen in over 50 years of presenting these awards.”

For more information about NACo’s Achievement Awards, click here.

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