How an email from a grieving father inspired a Fortune 500 company to fight opioids
Leidos supports a Truth Initiative® opioid education and prevention campaign, challenging other companies to join the fight.
What can one person do to fight the nationwide crisis of opioid abuse? Ask John Hindman, who lost his son Sean to heroin in 2016. As news spread about the death, he was shocked to learn how many of his colleagues and customers were affected by opioids. So he wrote an email directly to the head of his company, challenging him to take action.
A couple of weeks later, Hindman heard from Roger Krone, chief executive of Leidos, a Fortune 500 company with 32,000 employees. Krone wrote back: “John, thank you for reaching out and for emphasizing the importance of how we need to take more action to help end this crippling epidemic. We’re in, we’re all in.”
As part of their effort to play a role combatting the opioid crisis, Leidos is contributing to Truth Initiative to fund the research behind The Truth About Opioids, a truth® public education campaign focused on preventing and reducing the misuse of opioids among youth and young adults.
The Truth About Opioids is an expansion of the nationally recognized, evidence-based truth tobacco prevention counter-marketing campaign that has prevented more than 2.5 million youth and young adults from becoming smokers between 2015-2018.
“We’re proud to offer our knowledge and expertise in creating youth and young adult public health messaging to address this urgent crisis,” says Robin Koval, president and CEO of Truth Initiative. “When corporate America joins the fight against the opioid crisis, their employees and their families benefit. We hope more companies join us to expand the reach of this campaign and save more lives.”
The Truth About Opioids is a collaboration between Truth Initiative, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Ad Council, the nonprofit organization behind cultural movements like, "Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk." It is supported in donated media by top media and technology platforms that align with young adults’ media consumption, including Amazon, Facebook, Google and YouTube, NBCUniversal, Turner and Vice.
America consumes more prescription painkillers than any other country. Young Americans are particularly vulnerable to the risks associated with opioid misuse, addiction and the dangerous downward spiral from prescription to illicit use. In 2016, 2.5 million young adults reported misusing an opioid in the past year. That same year, more than 115 people died each day from opioid overdose.
The Leidos donation will support the rigorous scientific research Truth Initiative uses in its campaign, which is focused on helping young people understand the facts about opioids, the risk of addiction and their role in solving the crisis. This research includes foundational studies, continuous surveying and outcome evaluations.
The Truth About Opioids tells the stories of young people who became dependent on these highly addictive drugs. It launched in June 2018 with real-life, first-person stories of young Americans who intentionally hurt themselves to get access to opioids. The second phase of the campaign, called “Treatment Box,” captures 26-year-old Rebekkah’s story through a multiscreen installation in New York City, bringing Americans face-to-face with her opioid addiction, withdrawal and treatment.
Like Rebekkah, Leidos employee John Hindman’s son, Sean, became addicted to prescription opioid painkillers as a teenager before moving on to heroin. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports nearly 80 percent of heroin users started with prescription opioids.
A CEO pledge to end opioid addiction
In addition to its donation to Truth Initiative, Leidos is supporting awareness and education programs and helped to distribute 100,000 safe drug disposal kits in local communities. The information, engineering and science services company also has lent its data-science expertise to improve opioid-driven outbreak interventions.
Leidos is seeking to bring other companies along the journey through a CEO pledge to end opioid addiction. By signing the pledge, CEOs promise to create a workplace where difficult conversations about addiction can take place. Signatories agree to educate employees about the dangers of prescription painkillers and support nonprofits working to end drug addiction.
In October 2018, Leidos CEO Krone joined Hindman and other private industry executives at the White House for the signing of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. “I'm especially grateful to attend this event with John, who not only challenged us to support community organizations focused on this issue, but to encourage more companies to do their part to address the dangers of substance abuse, especially opioids,” Krone said. “We're committed to continuing our efforts, both inside Leidos, but also arm-in-arm with nonprofit organizations and through other relationships, to help turn the tide."
“There’s so much companies can do to fight this crisis,” adds Koval. “They can support education, awareness and treatment for their employees and their families as well as the community at large. We applaud Leidos’ commitment and urge other companies to take the CEO pledge.”
For more on The Truth About Opioids, read “The unseen struggle of opioid addiction, withdrawal and treatment” or visit opioids.thetruth.com. Contact [email protected] to find out how you can help.