The National Association of Broadcasters and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America are teaming up on a nationwide campaign to fight the epidemic of opioid (prescription pain relief medication and heroin) abuse, encourage treatment and raise awareness.
In 2014, for example, over 28,000 people died of opioid overdoses, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
"There's not a city or state untouched by this crisis," said NAB president Gordon Smith in announcing the effort. "The fact that Congress recently passed the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act is a sign of the seriousness of the challenge. We’re here to do something about it."
"If we are going to cure this scourge," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at the kickoff event, "it will be through a program such as the NAB has inaugrated today."
Broadcasters have already been airing news stories and documentaries (see below), but as "first informers," NAB is ramping up that commitment, including to:
• "Air partnership-produced public service announcements (PSAs) directing viewers and listeners to life-saving resources;
• "Develop long-form programming and special news reports, as well as hold town hall meetings and provide critical information online;
• "Develop a printed and online toolkit (http://www.nab.org/addiction/) for broadcast stations across the country on facts and statistics related to the epidemic, and ideas for prevention, programming and community outreach;
• "and produce and distribute new PSAs in conjunction with NAB’s bi-annual Congressional PSA Campaign."
The campaign was unveiled at a Capitol Hill press conference Tuesday with plenty of legislators in attendance to add their support.
Broadcasters in attendance included Rebecca Hanson, senior VP of strategy and policy of Sinclair Broadcast Group (Sinclair owns the ABC affiliate in Washington); Ginny Morris, chair of Hubbard Radio; Jordan Wertlieb of Hearst Television; and Art Brooks of the Arizona Broadcasters Association (ABA).
Brooks was in Washington back in June to accept a special Service to America award from NAB for ABA's documentary series on opioid addiction, specifically focusing on heroin use in the state.
"Hooked: Tracking Heroin's Hold on Arizona" was produced in association with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State. The documentary aired on all of Arizona's 34 TV stations and 93 radio stations.
In addition to citing Brooks' and the ABA's efforts, Smith also gave a shout out to broadcasters who have already aired $15 million-plus worth of PSAs from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids or otherwise devoted "enormous recourses" already to the story.
"These efforts make a difference and can save lives. Today, we commit ourselves to making an even bigger difference," said Smith.