BEDFORD, Ind.— A new series has successfully shed light on the stigma around substance use in Lawrence County, organizers say.
Three years after Lawrence County’s health department declared a state of emergency following a sharp rise in hepatitis C cases—and a year after county commissioners ended its needle exchange—providing resources for people with substance use disorders has remained a hot-button issue among locals.
IU School of Social Work assistant professor and Lawrence County resident Dr. John Keesler first began planning “From Stigma to Hope” last November with his graduate-level class.
“With faculty support, the experience allowed students to hone their skills in working as members of a team and to collaborate with a community organization to deliver a quality presentation. Often times, students work on presentations for a course that are delivered to their peers. This opportunity took students to the next level and was something they engaged in above and beyond their coursework,” Keesler said.
The series, which spanned from April to May in three installments and received backing from the Hoosier Uplands Economic Development Corporation, centered largely around themes of harm reduction—approaches and strategies that reduce the harm caused by substance use—and stigma.
After several collaborative planning meetings with Keesler and students, Hoosier Uplands social worker Ashley Gilstrap said she was pleased to watch the students inspire meaningful community conversations.
“We had 30 minutes to an hour of just questions, and lots of interaction,” Gilstrap said. “Many people shared personal stories about family members who were dealing with an addiction, and were able to ask some hard questions.”
“The students definitely learned that you have to look at issues and solutions in a different way than one would in a more urban setting,” Gilstrap said.