$23.2 Million to Prevent Substance Abuse: What You Should Know About New Texas HHSC Campaign

The second-largest state in the US, Texas attracts tourists from the U.S. and from all over the world. Cowboy aesthetic, historical buildings and roadside statues, world-class art museums, great beaches for birdwatching, boating, and fishing, Texas has it all. Unfortunately, the state also has a significant problem with substance abuse.

Substance use has different forms. It can be drinking alcohol to reduce stress, smoking cigarettes, taking someone’s prescription medications, using illegal drugs, or excess or careless use of any addictive substance.

Substance abuse causes numerous health problems, including mental illnesses, diabetes, cirrhosis, hepatitis, heart disease, and HIV. It can also lead to addiction, a chronic disease people often can’t beat on their own. The best rehabs in texas are the right way to get your life back on track.

About 10,6 thousand annual deaths in Texas are attributed to heavy alcohol use. Opioid overdose deaths reached the number of 4,154 in 2020. The statistics are a cause for serious concern for healthcare experts. And while the best drug rehab centers in Texas try to deal with the results of substance abuse and address addiction and dual diagnoses, public health organizations direct their efforts on prevention.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) launches a $23.2 million statewide awareness campaign. In their press release (published on March 8, 2022), the department clearly defined the two goals:

  • To prevent substance use disorders (SUDs) among Texas youth and families
  • To connect Texans to necessary services and treatments for SUDs.

One of the aims is reducing the stigma as it is one of the barriers to seeking and receiving the needed treatment. Sonja Gaines, the deputy executive commissioner for Intellectual and Developmental Disability & Behavioral Health Services at HHSC, says that SUD can happen to anyone, no matter what your age or socioeconomic status.

Other aims of the campaign are establishing stronger community relationships and altering social norms to prevent substance use. At HHSC, they believe that substance abuse or addiction is not a mere personal choice, many external factors contribute to unhealthy behaviors. They include constant work problems, family issues, financial troubles, limited communication with other people due to the COVID quarantine, etc.

From that standpoint, the department finds it important to help Texas citizens deal with traumatic and stressful events that might push a person to start drinking or taking drugs. It is planned to reach about 2.5 million Texans. And youth is one of the target groups. 2021 Texas Survey of Substance Use Among College Students (aged 18-26) revealed some of the following rates:

  • About 73% of students (72% – males, 75% – females) have drunk alcohol in their lifetime, 65% used it in the previous year (63% – males, 67% – females), while 51% of respondents drank alcohol in the past month (50% – males, 52% – females) report having used alcohol in the past month.
  • 38% of college students have smoked marijuana at least once in their life (37% – male, 38% – female), 26% smoked it during the past year (25% – male, 27% – female), 15% (both men and women) – in the past month.
  • Prescription drug abuse remained substantive. 18% of students reported they had taken a prescription drug to get high. Stimulants such as Ritalin (so-called “study drug) were the most commonly abused prescription drug.

Compared to women, men are more likely to engage in binge drinking and all types of illicit drug use, especially at a younger age. But it seems like this fact is outdated, at least on college campuses in Texas. The figures provided in parentheses show how substance use in 2021 breaks down by gender. While women still use substances differently than men (e.g., in smaller amounts), they already do it as often or even more often than men. The need for SUD treatment resulted in the best rehabs in texas catering to teenagers and adolescents.

HHSC distributed $23.2 million between two entities:

  1. FleishmanHillard received a $16.7 contract. They will develop a campaign targeted at the specific groups of the Texas population – young people and their parents that are in the highest risk categories. Also, FH will cooperate with community leaders who can develop relationships with these communities.
  2. The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Health Communication received $6.5 million. Their task is to elaborate a digital tool that can simplify the process of referring to existing SUD prevention resources, and treatment and recovery centers, including the best rehab facilities in Texas. This tool is expected to recommend resources that fit a particular person seeking help. Besides, the UTA will carry out a study to provide evidence to contribute to the development of a powerful campaign’s messages.

Mike Mackert the director of UT-Austin’s CHC, reposted the release on his Twitter page (@mackert), and commented it like this: “Couldn’t be more proud of @uthealthcomm’s part of this work! It’s important work where #healthcomm can make a big impact.”

HHSC analyzed the feedback from previous surveys, paying greater attention to the factors that provoke using alcohol or drugs. Also, they assessed the effectiveness of current preventive measures. The organization wants to come up with a prevention campaign that could reach the populations most vulnerable to negative health consequences. The results of this campaign which is still in development we’ll be able to see in the three years.