As part of its ongoing efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, the Drug Enforcement Agency announced Thursday it’s launching a yearlong digital billboard campaign across the Chicago area.
Messages in both English and Spanish will be displayed on area roadways, train stations and other locations, warning passersby of the dangers of opioids, including legally prescribed medications, and outlining treatment options.
“The purpose of this campaign is to stir up action in our communities and to save lives,” said Robert J. Bell, U.S. DEA associate special agent in charge of the Chicago field division office. The 12-month campaign is a partnership between the DEA, Chicago Crime Commission and Clear Channel Outdoor.
“I hope that (the billboards) put a little fear into a parent’s heart and they go home and they’re motivated to talk with their kids … about the dangers of drug addiction of any myriad of drugs,” he said.
Educating the public about the dangers of opioids and treatment options is “critical” to defeating the epidemic, according to Douglas O’Brien, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Region 5 director.
“This (epidemic) will not be defeated in Washington,” said O’Brien. “It’s going to be defeated in communities around the country, in emergency rooms, in church basements, in police stations and in people’s living rooms.”
O’Brien hopes the digital billboard campaign can serve as a catalyst to spark conversations and to connect people who have substance use disorders with treatment.
“I’m hopeful this campaign and the messages it sends can speak to all the community members out there who may not know how to start those conversations with their loved ones,” said Amy Voss of Buffalo Grove, who lost her son Jared to a heroin and cocaine overdose in 2015. “Please start those conversations.”
The DEA has also created educational resources, including a tool kit for parents with information on warning signs of opioid misuse and a guide to prevention, on the Operation Prevention website.