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ruminations on a series of unrelated events

Opioids in Indiana

Back in the summer of 2016, when I was in Durban, South Africa for the International AIDS Conference (see Summer 2016), I was profoundly struck by a moment in the opening ceremony.  On the opening night of the conference, there was a presentation about the current state of AIDS worldwide since the last conference. To set the stage, imagine about 15,000 people in an indoor arena listening to the likes of Bill Gates, Elton John, Prince William, Charlize Theron and of course, many AIDS experts whose names have long since left my memory. During this presentation there were many presenters talking about the AIDS crisis in many countries around the world. And then suddenly the AIDS outbreak in Austin, Indiana was presented. Obviously, I have known about the AIDS situation in Austin and the opioid crisis raging across America, but to see it presented in that context had a powerful impact on me. In a country with so many resources, why was this preventable problem occurring in Indiana? And what was being done about it? I knew right then what I wanted my next films to be about. I would take the same model I used in Kenya to develop and produce narrative films with people in Austin.

In the Fall of 2017, a grant opportunity came my way through IUPUI and I teamed up with a faculty member the School of Liberal Arts, Kyle Minor, to apply. Kyle is an amazing writer with two incredible short story collections under his belt. I asked Kyle to collaborate before I had read his books. And after I read them I was super excited I had. So we applied for a grant from the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute and last fall received $30,000 for Creating Films Through Community Engagement to Address the Opioid/HIV Crisis in Austin, Indiana.

But since the original idea, things had expanded a bit. I wanted to make a documentary as well, so we proposed a 1-hour documentary and three 20-minute narrative shorts. But the scope had had also expanded. It would now look at the root problem behind what was happening in Scott county: Opioids. The documentary would cover the opioid issue across the state and the narrative films would be concentrated in Austin.

Our project also greatly benefits from having Dr. Joan Duwve, from IUPUI’s Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, as a consultant. She has already helped immensely with getting us up to speed on a very complex issue and directing us to key people we would like to have involved with the films. At our first meeting with Joan, we came up with an idea that I think makes the very daunting task of creating a documentary just a little more manageable. We decided to break the doc up into specific aspects of the crisis and create shorter single-topic films. We will release these as they are completed and eventually roll them into a single doc. We also hope to get funding once the films are completed in order to take them on the road and present them in communities around the state.

I have two students, Hannah West and Devon O’Connell, who are working on the films as an independent study with me. Between Hannah, Devon, Kyle and me, we have divided eight aspects of the issue to research:

Needle Exchanges

Access to Treatment

Stigma

Addiction and what defines a cure/Methadone Treatments

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome & Foster Care

Neloxone

Economic Impact

Law Enforcement

I hope to start shooting some interviews later this month. Stay tuned as I update this post over the next year with news about the production.

March 2, 2018

Yesterday, we kicked things off with our first interview. With Hannah and Devin aboard, we headed over to Connersville, Indiana to interview Katrina Norris of Fayette Regional Health. Katrina is the Director of Behavioral Health & Addiction Services. Kyle and I saw her speak  at a symposium in Boone County back in January and we were very impressed with what she had to say about Fayette County and the construction of North Star Recovery, a new 46 -bed detox facility in the hospital. So we went to interview Katrina and see the facility which is currently under construction. We had a great interview and then Katrina gave us a tour of the facility which is a complete tear down and remodel on the 3rd floor. We plan to return after North Star opens in June to shoot it in action. While in Connersville, we also went to the county Health Department where we saw the needle exchange and met with Paula Maupin, who runs the facility. While we were there we also met with a couple of people in recovery who we hope to include in the films as well. We plan to return in April to conduct more interviews and shoot the Drug Coalition meeting.

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Northstar Tour

And I should mention it wasn’t all work, we had some pretty darn good barbecue at Rip’s in downtown Connersville.

March 8, 2018

Today we interviewed Amy Rardon in her father’s home on Indy’s east side. Amy has been in recovery for four years, after being addicted to opiates for over a decade. She was originally prescribed painkillers for back pain. Amy described her personal experience with methadone treatment in Indianapolis and spoke powerfully and candidly about the toll using drugs took on her life and on her relationship with her husband.

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March 22, 2018

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Kevin Moore

Today, the whole team headed over to the State office building (3 blocks from our building on the IUPUI campus) where we interviewed Dr. Jennifer Walthall, the Secretary of the Family and Social Services Administration, and Kevin Moore, the Director of FSSA’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction. In both interviews, we got a chance to discuss the nature and scale of the crisis in Indiana and the government’s efforts to help improve the lives of those affected by opioids. We discussed Indiana’s use of the the 21st Century Cures Act funding, needle exchanges, law enforcement, neonatal abstinence syndrome, medication assisted treatment, and stigma, among other topics. Both interviews were extremely informative and gave great insight into the problem and the solution(s).

Afterward, we had a meeting with Kevin and others on his staff to further discuss the issues and to see what access they might be able to help us with. This problem is enormous with its tendrils reaching into so many aspects of society. Every time I turn around I hear another story or learn something new, sometimes shocking, sometimes inspiring. We are just scratching the surface with these films, but it is my sincere hope that we can do justice to the efforts that are going into the fight against this scourge on so many fronts.

Today, what I learned was most definitely inspiring.

DSC05374DSC05353DSC05354DSC05351DSC05428DSC05425April 5th

After some initial confusion trying to make headway into Scott County, Kyle and I made arrangements to go down to Scottsburg and attend a CEASe meeting. (ccease.org) We went to listen and learn and to have a meeting afterwards with Michelle Goodin, the director of the Health Department. We got to met a few of the people involved in the efforts to combat substance abuse in Scott county., including some kids from the Scottsburg high school who formed a student coalition called Empower.  Afterward Kyle and I went to the new Health Department building in Scottsburg where we had an opportunity to sit down with Michelle Goodin for about an hour and explain what we hope to accomplish with our films. By the end of the conversation she was onboard and we left feeling pretty confident that we would be able to make some solid contacts in Scott County.

Michelle put us on the agenda for the Get Healthy Scott County (scpartnership.org) meeting the following Thursday, where we could introduce ourselves and our project to another set of stakeholders. She also made arrangements for us to interview Patti Hall at the Austin needle exchange. Patti has been with the health department from 30 years and was there during the height of the crisis when the exchange was established..

April 6th

We returned to Fayette County to shoot their drug coalition meeting and then to interview Paula Maupin, a nurse with the Health Department, and Charmin Gabbard who runs the needle exchange. The morning shoot went as well as shooting 20+ people sitting in a room can go. I haven’t looked at the footage yet, but while shooing it I thought I managed to come up with some pretty good angles. The meeting was run by the sheriff and there was two cops in attendance; one from the sheriff and one from the city police. It turns out they work together as the drug task force. I introduced them to Kyle, because he is handling the law enforcement piece. Before we left there, Kyle had gotten the ball rolling on a possible ride along. Funny enough it turns out these two officers have opposing views of the role of law enforcement when it comes to dealing with the opioid situation. This makes me excited from a filmmaking perspective because a ride along could concisely show the varying viewpoints of law enforcement as exemplified in a conversation between partners.

After the morning meeting, we headed to the Health Department. Before shooing the interviews I wanted to shoot a little b-roll in the office of Paula and Charmin working. Nothing like pulling out a huge camera to make people feel awkward. But what made it even more awkward was when I mentioned that it would be good if a worker behind me could turn off their Led Zeppelin. Well that didn’t go over so well. She got up in a huff and said she would just go to lunch and walked out the door. We all just looked at each other. The reaction to the request seemed a little disproportionate to the request, but maybe she is a huge Led Zeppelin connoisseur. It was only later while at lunch with Paula and Charmin that we learned that the other two women working in the office oppose the needle exchange. So right there in the Health Department of all places, two of the four people working there oppose a major aspect of the Health Department’s work. Wow. I never would have imagined.

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At a break during our interview with Paula Maupin. (With Hannah West on the floor doing sound.)

After we shot the interviews, it was back to Rip’s BBQ for the four of us. It had been an extra long morning and we were all starving. At lunch Paula and Charmin opened up a bit more and Kyle made tons of notes. I think Kyle got as much from this trip in terms of material for the narrative films and we did for the docs.

April 11

Today was a day we had long been waiting for. It is pretty hard to get a slot in the busy schedule of Dan O’Donnell. We had been trying for weeks. Among many other things, Dan is the Chief Medial Officer of Indianapolis EMS and he is a key player for something called Project Point. Project Point was designed to immediately provide peer recovery coaches to people in the ER who have overdosed and get them connected to treatment right away. It was the first program of its kind in the country. We wanted to hear what Dan had to say about Project Point and about the opioid situation in general.

We were able to interview Dan in a conference room at his facility and I have to say it could not have gone any better. Dan is extremely well versed in the topic. His interview will give a clear and concise voice to the films.

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April 12

Today Kyle and I drove down to Scott county to attend the Get Healthy Scott County where we presented our project to about 20 people in attendance. I thought it went quite well. I am hoping everyone was as receptive to our project as they seemed during my improvised ramblings. I forgot to actually mention that we hope we can have a focus group down there in early May, so we can listen to the stories of people in recovery in order to make our narrative films as authentic as possible. Hopefully that can happen.

After our presentation, we drove over to the now rather famous Austin Needle Exchange, known now as Syringe Services. There we interviewed Patti Hall, a preparedness coordinator who has been with the Health Department for over 30 years. She has seen it all, and apparently has gained a lot of experience with being interviewed. For a while back in 2015, a lot of international attention was focused on Scott County. She said they even had Al Jaeera there interviewing her. Patti immediately offered to let us go with her to film with the mobile unit. We were not expecting that and really didn’t have the right gear with us. We appreciated the offered, but said we would have to save that for another trip. I am looking forward to that.

All was going swimmingly with the interview despite it only being me and Kyle, until it suddenly wasn’t. At one point about 15 minutes into the interview, I noticed Kyle, who was operating the boom, get down on his knees. I thought to myself that I knew holding a boom pole can get a little tiring, but we hadn’t been at it all that long. When I cut for some reason, Kyle said he was sick. When I looked at him I saw that he was a green as could be. So Kyle got sick and then we resumed… and then Kyle got sick a second time. He was not doing well at all. By now the exchange was about to open. In fact people had been knocking at the door 5 minutes before the scheduled opening. So we packed up real quick and headed out. I am not sure how that interview looks. It is hard to interview and pay attention to the camera. At one point I had noticed Patti’s chair had gotten pushed back somehow. So there is a good chance all that is out of focus. A two person crew, when one has to look at the interviewee and not the camera, is not a great way to go.

April 17

Today was our last planned interview for the school year. Kyle and I both do this on top of our regular work responsibilities. And toward the end of the semester things get even busier than the normal way too busy. So I decided after 950 miles of driving and what would be 10 interviews under our belts after today, (2 more than my goal for the semester) that we would hang it up until May. We decided to go out on Jim McClelland. Jim was appointed by Governor Holcomb to be the Executive Director of Drug Addiction, Prevention and Enforcement. He is commonly referred to as the Drug Czar, (despite that sounding like a badass drug kingpin). He reports directly to the governor.

Jim McClelland

Kyle and I had seen Jim talk at the AgrIInstitute Symposium in Boone County back in January. Being a prominent figurehead it seemed like a wise idea to pursue an interview. Jim was kind enough to agree and we set up in the capitol building. I am ashamed to admit it, but despite it being only about 4 blocks from my building on campus, it was the first time I had ever set foot in the building. I was very impressed. It is quite beautiful, and much larger than I realized. We set up on the fourth floor overlooking the floors below. Virtually the entire ceiling is frosted glass, providing a very soft diffused light for our interview. Despite being out in the open, rather than in a room, it was surprisingly quiet (much quieter than when we shot the FSSA interviews over at the state building.)

Regardless of not having a background in drug policy, Jim was great. He was the CEO of GoodWill industries in Indiana, where he had worked for over 45 years before coming out of retirement to take on this position. Jim demonstrated a thorough grasp of the issues and did a great job on camera.

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It turns out a couple of days prior to Jim’s interview, Representative Ed Clere from New Albany agreed to do an interview with us on the same day. We had been trying to pin down a date with Ed for a while and it was great that he contacted us to do it on the same day.

EdClere

Representative Clere is a Republican Representative from the 72 District. He authored the legislature that authorized the creation of the original four Needle Exchanges in the state back in the spring of 2015. We shot it in the House of Representatives on the balcony overlooking the legislature.

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May 1

Today, Kyle, Devin and I headed south to Johnson County to interview the county prosecutor, Brad Cooper. Two weeks ago I sent an email to the prosecutor after reading an Indy Star article about how he completely opposes the planned methadone clinic that the state had approved for Greenwood. He stated that he would not send anyone there as part of a plea bargain, that it would bring crime into his county, and that it is simply switching a legal opioid for and illegal one. I doubted he would say yes to an interview, but a day or two later he replied with an extremely short email agreeing to the idea. After a few equally brief emails, we set a date, time and location.

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So why would I want to interview someone who most likely has ideas very different than my own, after all aren’t we making films presenting arguments for understanding, tolerance, and a proactive solution to the crisis? Well, we are also interested in presenting opposing views in order to engage them with an eye toward dialogue and fostering understanding. I believe if you are going to disagree with someone, it is a pretty good idea to hear what they have to say rather than assuming you already know. Part of our hope is that through editing opposing views we can at times emulate a dialogue of views.

When we arrived to set up in his office, Brad was very funny and almost whimsical. Since it takes us about 30 minutes to set up, there is plenty of opportunity to interact and joke around. If the press is to be believed Brad is a tough of crime and almost angry prosecutor, but of course that is not evident while interacting with a crew setting up.

However, it does become a little more apparent when being interviewed about methadone. Brad Cooper is a strongly opinionated prosecutor when it comes to drug offenses and good ways of dealing with offenders; in his book good ways do not include methadone.

The interview was passionate and fiery and actually incredibly good. And in the end I could better understand his position. I might not agree with it, but I definitely have a better understanding.

As often happens I forget to get photos. But Devin managed to snap one. Unfortunately, it isn’t the best angle.

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June 14th

After returning from a month teaching in Greece, I am ready to get back at the opioid films, so we headed to Richmond, Indiana today. We, being Kyle, Devin and I. Our fourth wheel, Hannah, has started a new job, and unless we can land some grant money to lure her away from her new job, we will be a tricycle for a while. So we pedaled our trike to Reid Health in Richmond where we had three interviews scheduled regarding The Bridge.

Yes, there is a bridge in Richmond, but that is not what we were after. The Bridge is a small electronic device that attaches behind the ear and has a few wires with small needles that attach to various nerve endings on the outer ear. Why would anyone wear this contraption? The device alleviates pain. It is an FDA approved medical device made by a company in Versailles, Indiana that dramatically reduces the effects of withdrawal. The testimonials I have seen are pretty persuasive, so we wanted to talk to the CEO himself about it. We met at Reid because they recently were given funding by the Indiana Supreme Court to run a program using The Bridge with people on probation. So we interviewed Lisa Shuttle, The Director of Strategic Initiatives Community Psychiatric Services. Then we interviewed Brian Carrico, the CEO of Innovative Health Solutions, the maker of The Bridge. And last we interviewed Autumn Howard, a young woman in recovery who feels her life was literally saved by The Bridge. All the interviews went extremely well and we all walked away convinced that this device could be a serious game changer. Both the pain of withdrawal as well as the fear of the pain keep many people using drugs long after they want to stop. According to Brian, Lisa, Autumn and many others, this device dramatically reduces pain and anxiety by 85% within 30 minutes after being installed. It is then worn for 5 days, No drugs, no physical intervention. Just an electronic pulse into specific nerves that interferes with pain signals in the nervous system.

Of course The Bridge is just one step to recovery. It can just get someone through detoxing part. Then there is the next step…

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Setting the camera for our interview with Brian Carrico, CEO of Innovative Health Solutions.

Brian Carrcio

June 17, 2018

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We headed just a few blocks down the street to interview Krista Brucker, one of the founders of Project Point at Eskenazi Health. Project Point is an effort to pair recovery coaches with people in the ER who have overdosed. She works with Dan O’Donnell who we interviewed a few months ago.

June 19, 2018

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On June 19th, we headed over to IMPD Southwest District building to interview Linda Linn. Linda is a Crisis Specialist, with the Mobile Crisis Team. This is an initiative Eskenazi Health’s Midtown Community Mental Health has with the Indianapolis Police Department. Linda works out of the IMPD Southwest precinct. She explained the nature of her work.

June 21, 2018

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We were finally able to get an interview scheduled with Brad Ray, an Associate Professor in the School of Public and environmental Affairs (SPEA) at IUPUI. His work centers are harm reduction and the criminal justice reform as they pertain to drug use and addiction. He played a significant part in getting naloxone in the hands of first responders.

June 22, 2018

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Kelsey has been in recovery for several years. She now works as a recovery coach in a major hospital in Indy. She discussed having three children during her struggles with drugs.

June 26, 2018

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We went to the Boone County Jail where there is a very intense drug recovery program. We interviewed six inmates going through the program and then we went to the probation office and interviewed a few people who have graduated from the program. The probation office is on the square in downtown Lebanon and we were ultimately drowned out by the major construction taking place on the square. So we have to schedule another visit. Serendipitously, I thought one of the people who we almost got to interview was a perfect fit for one of our fictional characters in the narrative films we are starting soon. And to our delight he agreed to do it.

July 6, 2018

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After having to postpone an interview we were to shoot months earlier due to a bad horseback riding accident (Judge Moores’s, not mine), we were finally able to book some time with Judge Marilyn Moores, the juvenile judge of Marion County. Judge Moores is on the front lines of the impact of the opioid crisis on teenagers and children. We interviewed her at the Juvenile court where she described her perspective on the crisis, the juvenile criminal justice system, and the foster care system which is breaking under the weight of so many additional foster kids due to the Department of Child Services taking more kids away from their parents.

Lesly

Lesly

After interviewing Judge Moores, we headed back to school where we interviewed Lesly. Lesly is a co-worker of mine and has a powerful story of addiction and recovery she was generously willing to share. She is also proof that you probably know someone who has been impacted by this crisis even if you don’t know it. It was only by happenstance that I learned of Lesly’s past.

July 17, 2018

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Sheriff Mike Neilson is the Sheriff of Boone County. Kyle and I heard Sheriff Neilson speak last January when we ventured to Boone county in the predawn sub-zero temperatures to attend an all-day symposium on the impact of the opioid crisis on rural Indiana. Kyle and I both looked at each other as he spoke, probably both thinking this isn’t how you expect a sheriff from the rural Midwest to talk. This guy has his eyes wide open and clearly gets that the old way of doing things just isn’t going to work. We both knew we had to get an interview with him. And just over 6 months later we finally did. And all I can say is wow. It was worth the wait.

Sheriff Nielson

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While at the Boone County jail, we also interviewed Brandon George, who is the Director of the Addiction Coalition of Indiana. He works closely with Sheriff Neilson and has been instrumental in making the jail recovery program what it is today. Brandon has also been instrumental in getting us access to the program and the people involved with it. We would not have what we have if it weren’t for his being onboard and being willing to extend himself. If we just had 6 more Brandons we could get the other films moving along.

August 31 to Sept 1

Kyle, Hannah and I went down to Scott county to shoot some footage for the docs and to do some pre-production work for the first narrative film we will be shooting down there later this fall. We rode along with Patti Hall as she took Scott County’s mobile syringe unit out for the afternoon. Getting b-roll was tricky as many people didn’t want to be on camera. Be some people agreed to letting us shoot them from behind. The state of much of the north end of Austin is pretty shocking. The level of poverty is extreme and the feeling of despair felt palpable. Many of the houses are in an extreme state of disrepair and several have porches and yards filled with stuff. Patti told us that many places don’t have electricity or running water and some even have dirt floors. We felt safe because we were along with Patti, who told anyone who asked that we were making a documentary about her. Nevertheless, we definitely turned a lot of heads and probably would not have felt quite as safe without Patti. After the ride-along with Patti, we went back to the syringe center, AKA the One Stop Shop, and did a formal interview with Patti. She has been there for 30 years and was there during the worst of the HIV outbreak in 2015 when the state declared a health emergency. She has a lot of firsthand knowledge to share. On a personal note, I have to say that I am really impressed with the compassion Patti has for helping people. She does it eagerly and always with a big smile on her face.

Patti Driving

On Fridays Patti takes out the Health Department’s mobile syringe unit.

Patti Unloading

Sometimes it seems to be a challenge to find what she needs.

Patti Dispensing

Coincidentally, that night there was a rally in Austin in support of more attention and resources for the opioid problem. We also went to that and got a little b-roll there.

The following day we dealt with logistics for the narrative film. Without going into a lot of detail, we managed to make a lot of progress securing locations, people and props. So we left Scott county feeling much better about making some tangible progress on the films… finally.

September 6, 2018

After months of trying to coordinate our schedule with that of the extremely busy Justin Philips of Overdose Lifeline, we were finally able to find two hours to sit down for a interview. Justin Philips formed Overdose Lifeline after the overdose death of her son, Aaron, in October 2013. Working with Sen. Jim Merritt, they were able to pass Aaron’s Law in 2015. Aaron’s Law allows Hoosiers to obtain Naloxone if they think someone they know is in danger of overdosing. Prior to the law’s passage only first-responders could carry Naloxone.

Or interview with Justin couldn’t have gone better. She is an amazing force of good in this mess of a crisis.

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Our very own Hannah West made a film in my Video for Social Change class that featured Justin Philips. Not in Vain screened at the Heartland Film Festival here in Indianapolis a couple of years ago.

September 14

At this point in our progress we haven’t really had a chance to make inroads into what is happening regarding the opioid epidemic down at IU and in Bloomington. Today, we interviewed two people from IU, Dr. Carrie Lawrence and Whitney Meeks. Dr. Lawrence’s work deals with social justice and health disparities.

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And Whitney Meeks is a research assistant to Dr. Lawrence and is in long term recovery herself. She works at the Indiana Recovery Alliance. Whitney told a very personal compelling story. We hope to see more of both of them when we get a chance to turn more attention to Bloomington.

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September 21

For some time now, we have been trying to coordinate an evening when we could go for a ride along with the Indianapolis EMS. That finally happened. But with our luck we seemed to have picked a night that was relatively quiet. The way it works is rather than being in an ambulance, you drive around with a district lieutenant who is free to respond to any call. So we drove all around town responding to different calls that the lieutenant thought might be overdoses, even though it might not sound like it from the dispatch. But most of the time, we would arrive just as they were putting the person on the ambulance. We would be left there shooting the closing doors of the ambulance and them driving away. Well this is like literally being an ambulance chaser. I am hoping to gain better access in the future. Not just the type of access that basically results in the same type of footage the nightly news gets. We need to figure out how to get on an ambulance on the way to the hospital and shoot the EMTs doing their work. I hope we can make this happen somehow. But do to privacy concerns, I have my doubts.

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October 4th

Today we interviewed Senator Jim Merritt (Rep. 31st District) in the Republican Caucus room in the State House. Among other things, including talking about the Bridge, Senator Merritt talked about his work with Justin Philips and getting Aaron’s law passed.

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October 7th

After our first full day of shooting our narrative films in Scott County, we interviewed Mike Elkins. Mike is the owner of the house we filmed in and his story is the inspiration behind some of the aspects of our narrative film. Mike served time in the Clark County Jail for possession of Methamphetamine and Opana with intent to sell. We talked to him about his prior life and where he is now. Mike has provided wonderful assistance with the narrative films and even has a part in one we shot last week. (see the entry on the narrative films)

October 11

We had a wonderful opportunity to present our project to the closing session of the Harm Reduction Conference in Indianapolis. For the last few days Matt Tarr, our new editor on the project, has been busy at work on putting together an extended trailer of the 30+ interviews we have conducted so far. It was a lot of fun to present the work and a sneak peek at the website we have been developing and plan to launch in early November.

October 24

Since our presentation on the 11th we have been directing our efforts toward the narrative films, shooting every weekend. But today, we did our first interview with the main subject for our doc on Naloxone. Wes Doty has struggled with addiction since his early teenage years. He has overdosed 10 times. He has been revived with Naloxone 5 times. He has been arrested more times than he can remember. He was homeless in Indianapolis for 5 months. Now he has turned his life around and is almost two years sober. During that time has discovered a talent for running. Running and racing have become central to Wes’s life. He runs almost daily and volunteers with a non-profit Back on My Feet. This organization helps people with issues of homelessness, drug use and mental health find organization and purpose through running. We will be spending a lot of time with Wes in the coming weeks as we try to relate his story.

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November 28th

Today, we interviewed Sandy Jeffers who steers the Pathway to Recovery ship as Executive Director. We interviewed Sandy to be able to include her interview on our website and we also interviewed her for the documentary we are doing on Wes. Wes came through Pathway and lives in one of their apartment units. Sandy has an up-close perspective on Wes’s experience, and Sandy gave an impassioned interview explaining the work and philosophy of Pathway.

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November 30th

Today we finally made our way to the Indiana Minority Health Coalition offices to Interview Tony Gillespie. Tony is the Vice President of Public Policy and Engagement. We were glad to have finally been able to sit down with Tony. It was a long time in the making. While we were there Tony suggested we interview Vanessa Summers who is the Indiana Representative of District 99 and works with the IMHC on various issues. Tony and Vanessa spoke about the nature of the impact of opioids in minority communities.

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January 3, 2019

With the new semester, we have a few new students on the project: Devon Pulley, Anna Zanoni and Emily Owensby are joining the crew and Ed Kaikumba is returning for another semester.

Today, Devon accompanied me to Muncie, and Ed, who lives in Muncie, joined us to interview Dave Molden. Dave is a friend of Wes’s and has known Wes for at least 6 years. For the Wes doc we need to interview one or two of Wes’s friends from Muncie who can speak to Wes’s life prior to his recovery. I think Dave did a great job drawing that picture for us. He told some compelling stories and provided candid insight into what that was like for Wes as well as for himself.

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Dave Molden being interviewed in his home in Muncie. (I love that succulent behind him!)

Thus far for that doc, we have interviewed Wes and shot b-roll of him moving into his Pathway to Recovery apartment. We shot him giving a speech at the gala for Pathway. We shot him running in the Monumental Marathon. We interviewed Sandy Jeffers, the Executive Director of Pathway. And we have shot B-roll of Wes and Sandy searching for and identifying the officer who administered Narcan to Wes in an eastside gas station. Next on the list is getting the IMPD Media relations team onboard with the idea of having Wes meet the officer so he can thank her. I called them and they seemed to be into the idea, but they informed me that the officer is not currently on active duty. So I am hoping a call to them next week will provide different news and we can move ahead on that front. It is a little progress at a time. Baby steps until it is over.

July 4th 2019

I haven’t been updating this entry lately because I have been doing most of my writing in the entries n the narrative films and the documentary about Wes. But I have to say I was a little shocked when I saw that my last update was 6 months ago. In the meantime the opioidstories.org website has launched. The work continues. We have shot additional interviews with Brandon George and Matthew Lenz in Boone county in the hopes of pulling together a short doc on what is happening in the jail system there as seen through Brandon’s eye. Progress has been slow as most of the effort has been going into the Wes doc and getting the remaining shots of the first Scott County Stories in the can. (Still two to go on that one)

One big news item is that I was invited to present at University High School in Carmel, Indiana. (My daughter graduated from there in 2012). Faculty and administration there wanted to address the opioid crisis for the students in a way that might have some impact. So I was invited to come share some of the work we have been doing. I brought along Lesly Wymer (see the entry above from almost a year ago) and I wanted Wes to come. But it turns out he was a bit shy. So I showed the interview with Lesly and I showed the first 20 minutes of the Wes doc and then Lesly spoke and took questions. I have to say it felt like a pretty powerful presentation and Lesly did a stellar job talking with students. They had a lot of questions and it seemed like the experience resonated with them.  My friend who teaches there and was the facilitator for getting me invited, told me that she was approached by several students and faculty that day and the following who told her how impactful it was. That is good to hear.

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This entry was posted on February 5, 2018 by in Film, Opioids, Uncategorized.
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