Campaign raises awareness of substance use disorders and addiction

Changing Minds graphic

The Health District of Northern Larimer County, in conjunction with the Mental Health and Substance Use Alliance, has launched a campaign to increase public awareness of substance use disorders and addiction in our community. The goals of the Changing Minds campaign are to shed light on the public health crisis of addiction in Larimer County, de-stigmatize the disease of addiction and give hope to the 26,000 in our community living with a substance use disorder.

One in 10 Larimer County residents suffers from addiction. Less than 1 in 10 of those 26,000 community members will get the treatment they need. That leaves 23,660 in need of addiction care — enough to fill the Budweiser Events Center three times over.

The campaign emphasizes that addiction is a disease that changes the brain. When addiction takes hold, the brain is rewired to function as if drugs and/or alcohol are life-or-death and essential for survival. It stops being a choice; it becomes a chronic, life-threatening disease like cancer or diabetes.

But there is hope. Addiction care can be as effective as treatments for other diseases and works the same way — with medication, counseling and ongoing support. Evidence-based medication has been proven to stabilize dopamine levels in the brain and reduce cravings. Individualized, continuing care is vastly improving recovery rates and reducing remission. Treatment can work. The brain can heal.

The Changing Minds campaign is about starting conversations. In order to spark community dialogue about addiction, the Health District has created Changing Minds “Brain Pods,” eight freestanding, glowing displays that dispense facts about addiction. The Brain Pod installations, which debuted at New West Fest, will rotate to different locations throughout Northern Colorado this fall. Any business or organization that would like to host a Brain Pod at their location or have it at a specific community event can contact Brian Ferrans at bferrans@healthdistrict.org.

A website for Changing Minds solicits and shares stories of addiction and recovery from our community. It also features information and short, simple animations on how addiction changes the brain, and illustrates the cost of addiction in Larimer County.

When we change the narrative on addiction, we dispel stigma, break down barriers to care and increase awareness of how to best allocate our community’s resources. To learn more about addiction and how we can start changing minds and saving lives, visit ChangingMindsLarimer.org.

The Health District is a public agency that provides residents of northern Larimer County with dental, mental health, preventive health, and advance care planning services, in addition to connecting people to more affordable health insurance and prescription options. The Mental Health and Substance Use Alliance of Larimer County is a partnership of local public and private organizations and consumer advocates.