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Imagine if you entered your favorite barbershop or hair salon only to find there was one haircut from which to choose. Or, suppose you wear a size 5 shoe but are told only size 8 shoes are sold. You just need to make it work.

While this approach might work for breathing air or drinking water, there are only very few other situations where a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all approach works. 

Tobacco treatment for people living with mental and behavioral health challenges is one of those areas where a tailored approach is required. Over 70% of people living with mental and behavioral health challenges want to stop using tobacco products. At the same time, for individuals living with mental and behavioral health challenges, stopping tobacco use often takes longer than conventional support programs allow, and they may need a longer time using FDA-approved nicotine medications and replacement therapies than individuals not living with a mental or behavioral health challenge. 

It isn’t just the programs that need to be tailored to the behavioral health population, though. The educational messages encouraging people living with mental and behavioral health challenges to consider stopping tobacco and other nicotine-containing products require a tailored approach as well. 

To tackle this gap, BH WELL created tailored behavioral health tobacco treatment messages featuring people living right here in Kentucky. As we were beginning to test the messages, they were already so popular that our partners at the Franklin County Health Department (FCHD) wanted a head start on using them for a billboard advertisement in May and June 2024. Our team helped create a brief feedback form so that they could determine what people in Franklin County thought of the ads. 

“Utilizing the BH WELL tailored behavioral health tobacco treatment messages in our community has been so inspiring,” stated Debbie Bell, Health Education Director with the Franklin County Health Department. “We hosted a vendor booth during the 2nd Annual Sobriety Festival in Frankfort, Kentucky, during the month of April, and created a display board using all 10 of BH WELL’s messages. We had a total of 26 participants stop by and vote for the ad that resonated most with them. Participants were told that the two ads garnering the most votes would be used in a mass media campaign. The individuals loved voting on the ads and are excited to see them displayed on a billboard in Franklin County.”

A billboard at US 60 and I-64 Chenault in Franklin County is displaying two of our tailored behavioral health tobacco treatment messages during the months of May and June. The rapid pace at which these resources went from concept to implementation shows the great need for tailored messages such as these being available to health educators and behavioral health organizations throughout Kentucky. 

BH WELL plans to complete evaluation and updates to all tailored behavioral health tobacco treatment messages by the end of June. Behavioral health organizations and health departments will be able to request permission to use and personalize one or more ads within in a local behavioral health facility or community near you!

BH WELL thanks the Kentucky Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program for funding our work to gather local stories and create these tailored messages.

Housed within the University of Kentucky College of Nursing, BH WELL exists to promote behavioral health and wellness among individuals facing behavioral health challenges. The BH WELL research team members are experts in behavioral health integration and change. They provide the essentials of mental and behavioral health support: practice, research, education, scholarship and service.