Case Study: Healing Transitions


Founded some twenty years ago, and based on the successful model of The Healing Place in Louisville KY, Healing Transitions provides no – cost peer based recovery services for citizens of Wake County, North Carolina. Originally clients were mostly alcoholics, often homeless and had no other place to go.

More than 70% of Healing Transitions graduates remain clean and sober for two years or longer and the facility is operated at less than $40 per day per client.  Although HT doesn’t keep longer records the anecdotal evidence suggests a high number have not suffered relapse at any time.

Over the years the client base has shifted to a population experiencing more drug use and often coming from stable, more affluent homes. Public perception of alcoholics and addicts has often been that it is a disease of the streets and the disadvantaged, and is self imposed, or perhaps a moral weakness. Recent years have seen more understanding of addiction as a disease.

Financial support comes from a broad coalition of public, private and philanthropic organizations as well as families touched by the disease.  Healing Transitions leadership wanted to explore was to increase community understanding and find sources for more predictable funding.

Case Objectives

  1. Create a program to enable donors to contribute on a sustaining basis.
  2. Reach out to current supporters and find new audiences.
  3. Double the amount of private contributions within three years.

BBG Insights

The use of drugs and alcohol for recreational purposes is not a new experience for many Americans. What is new, is awareness of our growing exposure to addictive prescription medication. These drugs, initially developed to reduce pain, have become gateway drugs that supersedes borders, cultural boundaries, and demographic differences.

  1. We believed the timing was right to reach a large, affluent audience that, although sympatric, considered alcohol and drug addiction as ‘not my problem’.
  2. A program needed to be created to capture the imagination of potential donors, both new and current, and provide a simple way for them make a difference.
  3. It is a powerful truth that the individual donor can actually change lives. For as little as $40 monthly, a donor can provide a recovering person one full day of housing, meals, recovery training, and lifestyle counseling.
  4. We believed the opportunity to Change a Life would have a strong appeal if properly presented.

The individual contributor was historically a person or family touched in some way by the disease, often a child, parent, spouse or even a co-worker. Previous out reach to the broader community had largely failed. When opioids burst into affluent neighborhoods, followed by heron, it provided an opportunity to reach out to a vast new source of funding.

Our research indicated that there was a growing awareness of addiction as a disease rather than a moral failure or bad lifestyle choice.  Drug use, often stimulated by prescription painkillers, could no longer be ignored in affluent neighborhoods, in country clubs, and in private schools.  Heron was no longer a drug of the streets but was being used by successful people when prescription was no longer available.

Change a Life

We created a program called ChangeMakers.  In order to produce communications with a limited promotional budget we utilized client staff, program graduates, and donations from agency partners and media outlets.

A number of concepts were explored before we realized that video stories from program graduates that mirrored the audience we were addressing was the most powerful tool we could develop.

An on-line donation page was created, and linked to the stories of once struggling, non-productive people who’s lives had been changed allowing them to resume their role of productive members of the community. And it was ChangeMakers, people who had supported Healing Transitions that made this possible.


Earned Media Examples

ABC11 • What to do when you think a loved one is using heroin 

Spectrum News • Struggles opioid users face

The News & Observer • He was hooked on heroin. Now he uses running to help other quit.

Triangle Business Journal • STOP Act a good start, but more needed. 

The Result

In the first three months of the campaign, ChangeMaker sign-ups exceeded goal.  This year (1/17 – 6/30) the program continuous to generate a high level of interest, and of ongoing ChangeMaker pledges.

The ChangeMaker program is being promoted through social media, speaking engagements, earned media and PR, and through brand evangelists visiting troubled communities.

“Working with BBG is a wonderful experience. We are very happy with the results. It is nice to be able to rely on them for their expertise and advice. We trust them.”

~ Chris Budnick

Executive Director, Healing Transitions