Response to opioid crisis in western Virginia sparks unusual campaign

By  | 

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) At first glance, it appears to be a typical video you might see on social media promoting a new line of baby products, but it quickly becomes clear, this is not your typical product launch.

"This bottle has a uniquely designed face mask," the announcer says as she handles the prototype, "so a newborn suffering from withdrawal symptoms can breathe properly while they drink milk."

Created by the ad agency Grey New York for the Urgent Love Initiative here in western Virginia, the campaign isn't actually selling any products, but is raising awareness about a challenging chapter of the continuing opioid crisis.

Dr. Robert Trestman is the Chair of Psychiatry for Carilion Clinic and Virginia Tech.

"This is a local problem," Trestman told WDBJ7. "We have been caring for as many as 20 babies at a time with neonatal abstinence syndrome who have been delivered by mothers who are opioid addicted."

By introducing faux products like a morphine-injecting baby spoon and a combination baby rattle and heart monitor, Urgent Love hopes to reach more people and raise more money for the group's local efforts.

Walt Boyle is a strategist with the Urgent Love Initiative.

"It's intended to get your attention," Boyle said in an interview. "It's intended to get folks to stop and say 'wait, what's happening here? Why is this happening?' And ideally say 'what can I do to help?"

The Opi's website resembles a typical e-commerce site, but if you click on a product it will take you to a donation page.

Representatives of Urgent Love say their main goal is to raise awareness, but if they also raise money in the process, they say that will provide a major benefit as well.