In the field of advertising, the old saying goes that it takes at least seven uniquely different exposures to a product before the consumer actually decides to purchase it. In the marketing of awareness and prevention of the opioid crisis, one should apply a multiplier effect of a 1,000 when the aim is to reach out to young people of the fatal consequences of a drug epidemic that killed 70,000 Americans last year.
Like other public health campaigns that have came before it, including such great successes as with the war against tobacco and AIDS, the strategy for drug awareness is simple; pound on the table as much as you can for as long as you can.
And that is the power and magic of the Purple project for the Mid-Shore this September.
Started last year in Talbot County by the Sheriff’s Office and the Tidewater Rotary with modest expectations, it turned out to be remarkably successful for reasons large and small as the community responded dramatically to “Talbot Goes Purple” through rallies, games, high school programs, and most importantly, the profoundly moving sight of entire towns lit up purple on almost every porch, storefront, street lamp, or dozens of other creative ways to show solidarity with oppied prevention.
As a result of this overwhelming response, Talbot Goes Purple became a model for other Mid-Shore counties to replicate, and it is profoundly moving that Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, and Queen Anne’s counties have formed community partnerships with their schools, businesses, and neighborhoods to join “Mid-Shore Goes Purple,” including the Spy, which will become, we hope, a portal for news and stories from the five different purple campaigns.
But how do we know all this purple in September is working? Is this the most effective way to reach potential users of opioids?
The answer is an unequivocal “yes,” at least from the perspective of someone who is on the battlefield; Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble. In his Spy interview to be broadcast today, Gamble points to data where deaths by overdoses have been reduced, and those receiving police-administered Narcan treatment (and therefore should be counted as lives saved) has increased.
Statistics like these remain the final test for how a county on the Shore is succeeding or failing on a drug epidemic, but one can not overlook the collateral benefits that have come with Talbot Goes Purple. From the creation of group homes for recovering drug users, the widespread training in the use of the life-saving Narcan, or the creation of student awareness groups at local schools, these examples demonstrate that Talbot’s collective response to the crisis is serious and sustained.
Our region has a long way to go before we are out of harm’s way with this horrific danger. The opioid crisis will take years, perhaps more than a decade, to be totally defeated. In the meantime, there can never been enough purple in September on the Mid-Shore and the Spy is proud to turn that color.
For information on how to help, volunteer, or just where one can pick up a purple light bulb for their home, please go here