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Heroine

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Heroes of Heroin(e) documentary visit Athens, Nelsonville


“I’m trying.”

A woman struggling with addiction and the challenges that accompany the disease, spoke those words during the documentary Heroin(e). The documentary follows the efforts of three women from Huntington, West Virginia, who are also “trying.”

Jan Rader, Huntington’s first female fire chief, Patricia Keller, a presiding judge over the drug court for the city, and Necia Freeman, of the Brown Bag Ministry — an organization that aids women struggling with substance abuse — were guests of Athens HOPE on Jan. 29. Their Oscar-nominated documentary was shown at both Ohio University’s Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium in Athens and at Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville. Following the screenings, the three women participated in panel discussions and fielded questions from the audiences.

“The heroines have done transformational work in Huntington and have incredible messages of acceptance, recovery promotion, community cooperation and most of all basic respect and kindness towards everyone,” said Rebecca Robison-Miller, chair of Athens HOPE and senior director of community relations for OHIO’s College of Health Sciences and Professions.

Heroin(e) tells the story of how Rader, Keller and Freeman took it upon themselves to not only shine a light on the opioid epidemic but also take steps to combat the disease of opioid addiction and make a difference in the lives of community members. Rader was instrumental in integrating naloxone into the equipment of area fire departments, touting its effectiveness in reviving those suffering from opioid overdose. In the documentary, Keller’s courtroom is featured with a number of individuals trying to rebuild their lives after committing crimes to support their habits. Freeman travels the streets at night providing food for women suffering from opioid addiction and helping them obtain shelter and support.

During the event at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium, a crowd of more than 400 students, University officials and local officials attended. The panel was asked what has changed in Huntington since the documentary was created.

“The biggest impact the documentary has had in general is it begins the conversations necessary to move us forward and start recovery not only for the individuals but for the community,” Radar said. “We’ve started many programs to help those suffering from substance abuse and we’re trying to change the stigma. In 2018, our overdoses were down 41 percent from the previous year.”

“This was a snapshot in time of some ongoing things in Huntington,” added Keller. “What has been most notable for me and what has changed since then is the amount of additional people who have wanted to help and get involved and work toward a solution. I think a lot of folks wanted to do something but didn’t know what to do. We’ve been able to talk to groups, churches and universities about what they can do. We’ve formed an even stronger partnership with universities and their students and that’s opened the doors to more people.”

Freeman said the film has “taken people from being just a drug addict to an actual human who needs some help. It has transformed opinions.”

The panel spoke for more than an hour in Athens, discussing various topics including the causes of the epidemic, pushback from first responders using naloxone, programs available and success stories.

Heroin(e) can be found on Netflix, has a runtime of 39 minutes and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject. Rader was named one of TIME magazine’s most influential people for 2017. Peabody Award winner Elaine McMillion Sheldon directed the film.

Athens HOPE (Halting Opioid abuse through Prevention and Education) is a taskforce comprised of 70 community and university partners with a shared goal of education and stigma reduction around substance abuse disorder. Visit the Athens HOPE website for more details.