"In 2012, about 22.2 million Americans ages 12 and older (8.5%) were classified with a substance use disorder in the past year."

-source: samhsa

The Santa Cruz County Alcohol and Drug Program Strategic Plan for Substance Use Treatment and Intervention Services outlines a comprehensive plan to increase prevention, intervention and treatment of Substance Use Disorder. Santa Cruz County pays a high cost for untreated substance use, approximately $208 million is spent on public safety, incarceration and emergency services. And with 22,000 citizen diagnosed but not treated, the social fabric of our community is weakened by the decreased capacity of its community members to participate in the work force, family systems, and safe neighborhoods. The AOD Strategic Plan outlines recommendations that support the creation of a safe and healthy community where individuals and families thrive in a supportive environment with enhanced quality of life.

The first barrier to overcome was the stigma associated with SUD/COD. Research notes that stigmatization of illness and lack of accurate information about an illness are barriers to connecting to and maintaining engagement in treatment and ongoing recovery maintenance management (SAMHSA, 2004). Stigma may include self-stigma, perceived stigma by others, or veritable stigma imposed by others, including family, friends, community, and/or individuals who are part of the system of care experience. Evidence shows that this confounds efforts to:

  1. identify, engage and retain individuals into intervention, treatment and/or support service,
  2. match individuals to appropriate treatment types/levels,
  3. provide high caliber quality of services
  4. promote public understanding

Best practices to effectively manage chronic diseases, including SUD, include widespread public anti-stigma initiatives that promote fact-based information about nature of the illness, debunk myths and misunderstandings, and share resources that encourage active response to addressing health needs of self and others.

The SUD/COD Social Norming Media campaign is an effort to shift the community to support sound and compassionate approaches to SUD/COD needs and adequate resources in order to minimize costly consequences. It also aims to improve community culture/attitudes regarding substance use and related issues.

What does success look like?

  1. Reduced stigma associated with SUD/COD, including an increase in sister agencies’ and other partners’ capacity to demonstrate services/supports that are sound and compassionate approaches to SUD/COD needs.
  2. Increased community support for adequacy and parity of SUD/COD resources.

Action Steps

  • Inform general public
  • Motivate for cultural shift
  • Communicate the negative impact to community public safety, financial stability etc.
  • Bridge assessments and resources
  • Foster communities for Well Being
  • Respond to narratives around specific incidents
  • Promote accurate information
  • Debunk myths
  • Create an understanding of how to respond
  • Increase access to available services


Every $1 spent on treatment will save the community $7 on costs associated with untreated SUD.
Santa Cruz County pays a high cost for untreated substance use, approximately $208 million is spent on public safety, incarceration and emergency services
Of the ~22,000 diagnosed,~ 3,500 individuals seek treatment and of those seekers ~1,200 received treatment.

Local Materials Developed

Outside Publications


To find out about the next meeting, contact : Jenna Shankman