On October 26, 2016, the President deemed the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency. Though no specific programs or policies are involved with that designation, it is likely to unlock funding and support for effective prevention, treatment, and harm reduction to prevent further deaths from overdose.
How will the government agencies decide how and where to invest? It’s an important question and one we have had the distinct honor of learning more about as we have worked with filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon and the Center for Investigative Reporting to build educational resources around her important and timely film Heroin(e).
“Three women fight to break the cycle, one life at a time. Once a bustling industrial town, Huntington, West Virginia has become the epicenter of America’s modern opioid epidemic, with an overdose rate 10 times the national average. This flood of heroin now threatens this Appalachian city with a cycle of generational addiction, lawlessness, and poverty. But within this distressed landscape, Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon (Hollow) shows a different side of the fight against drugs -- one of hope.”
The women featured in Heroin(e) are working diligently to decrease the stigma of drug addiction, to educate and empower first responders to revive people who overdose, and to lead an extremely effective drug court that prioritizes treatment over punishment. They have been invited to present their work at the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit as examples of active citizens.
The film, streaming on Netflix now, demonstrates the power of documentary film to deepen our understanding of complex issues and to make real impact. Communities across the country are convening public health officials, people who are addicted and their loved ones, criminal justice officers, harm reduction programs and other stakeholders to organize around the opioid epidemic in their community.