AHCCCS’ ‘Talk Heals’ Public Awareness Campaign Aims to Combat Youth Substance Abuse – State of Reform

The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) used additional funds from its annual Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Addiction Block Grant funding to launch the “Talking Heals” public awareness campaign to reduce substance abuse among the state’s youth.

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This additional funding was intended to address substance use prevention and treatment needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. AHCCCS told State of Reform that in addition to funding direct prevention services through community organizations, prevention workforce development and program evaluation, a media campaign to complementing these efforts would serve as an important tool in the public health toolbox for broader reach. – Achieve impact on youth in the state.

“Talk Heals” is a campaign that encourages young people to talk to trusted people in their lives, using familiar emojis and scenarios in youth culture to effectively communicate relevant messages with young people on the platforms they use (social media, streaming applications, etc.) that they themselves would be likely to share with their peers.

The campaign includes television, outdoor and online ads that encourage young people to talk to a trusted person in their life rather than using substances to deal with life’s stressors and mental health issues. According to the AHCCCS, “Talk Heals” highlights the connection between mental health and substance use and provides education and resources that young people can use and encourages coping strategies and self-care in place of substance use.

The AHCCCS said the campaign was intended to address current trends in substance abuse among young people in Arizona. The Arizona Youth Survey, a survey of more than 269,000 Arizona students in grades 8 through 12 in 2022, reports that 30-day alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco use decreased from 2020 to 2022 at every grade. school. Almost a third of students said they had ever had more than a few sips of alcohol, 20.4% had used marijuana, 18.1% had used marijuana concentrates such as wax pens, THC oil, etc., and 18.9% had used electronic cigarettes.

AHCCCS said the state conducted research on Arizona youth and their families while developing the campaign to gather information and ideas.

“Research with young people and their families has found that mental and emotional struggles, which have been caused or worsened by the pandemic, are one of the main reasons young people choose alcohol and other drugs. to relieve stress and emotional pain, depression and anxiety – issues that are actually made worse by substance use,” the agency said. “The intended outcome is improved mental well-being and resilience in youth, including reduced use of substances such as alcohol, marijuana, vaping and prescription drugs. »

The message used by the campaign draws on young people’s reports and experiences of social isolation and loss of family and friends due to the pandemic, intense negative emotions and stress with a lack of ability to coping, witnessing substance use around them in social situations and feeling tired of hearing the same messages about substance use.

The campaign is scheduled to run until March 14, 2023.

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