NORWALK, CT: Lauren Lawson-Zilai spent 15 years at Goodwill Industries International and witnessed the stigma faced by the people who the organization helped find jobs, she said.
There is also “a lot of stigma and discrimination faced by those with substance use disorder,” said Lawson-Zilai, who was most recently Goodwill’s senior director of PR and comms. “There's a real need for awareness and for people to be treated with empathy and compassion.”
Lawson-Zilai will have the opportunity to further that cause as senior director of media and PR at Shatterproof, a national nonprofit aimed at addressing the addiction crisis in the United States.
Despite increased public awareness and government efforts concerning the opioid epidemic, the number of overdose deaths has continued to increase in recent years. There were more than 107,000 overdose deaths in 2021, a 15% increase from the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lawson-Zilai said she was interested in joining Shatterproof because the group takes a science-based approach to substance use disorder, and its work “has probably never been more important than it has been at this time.”
“[Lawson-Zilai] will help make sure that more families across the country are aware of life-saving resources being developed by Shatterproof, and she will help break down the stigma of addiction in our country,” Kirsten Suto Seckler, Shatterproof chief marketing and communications officer, stated in a news release.
During her time at Goodwill, Lawson-Zilai launched an influencer marketing program, which included the BeyGOOD campaign with Beyoncé and relationships with PBS’ Matt Paxton; Evette Rios of Today and Kristian Bush of Sugarland, according to the release. She also led public relations for campaigns between Goodwill and the Ad Council, such as the Bring Good Home and Donate Stuff, Create Jobs initiatives.
Shatterproof, which is based in Norwalk, Connecticut, aims to advocate for policy change that leads to better quality addiction care; better training for healthcare providers; common-sense addiction prevention strategies; and regulation of spending from opioid litigation funds, according to its website.
The organization recently launched an initiative in New Jersey called the Addiction Treatment Locator Assessment and Standards Platform (ATLAS), which “evaluates addiction treatment facilities’ use of evidence-based best practices and includes an assessment to understand the appropriate level of care,” Lawson-Zilai said.
ATLAS is also available in Delaware, Louisiana, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
She will fill a new position and work to connect national media with subject matter experts and people with lived experience of substance use disorder, Lawson-Zilai said. She will also promote awareness of the problem and Shatterproof during events such as National Recovery Month in September.
“That's an opportune time to let people know what resources are out there because I think that's the biggest challenge. People just don't know where to go, who to turn to,” Lawson-Zilai said.
She also hopes to develop relationships with influencers and celebrities who have experience with addiction, she said. In October 2021, the organization honored actress Jamie Lee Curtis with an award for sharing her story and trying to break down the stigma around the issue.
“There's real opportunity to raise brand awareness and elevate brand awareness for Shatterproof,” Lawson-Zilai said.