Ohio University

OHIO alumnus Hiller earns award for stories of addiction and recovery

Published: December 3, 2020 Author: Olivia Mayernik

When recent Ohio University alumnus Eli Hiller moved to the Philippines to reconnect with his roots, he saw firsthand the opioid crisis that had claimed over 30,000 lives. After moving back to Ohio during the pandemic, he soon realized that Ohio is also in the midst of its own opioid crisis.

Hiller, a photojournalist, attends harm reduction support group meetings conducted by Harm Reduction Ohio to help tell the story. The meetings include participants that are there willingly as well as those ordered by the court to attend. 

“Gaining their trust is extremely important because this is a very delicate situation, it is not a breaking news environment. After gaining their trust I then take photos of the support group in which can show raw emotions,” Hiller said. 

As a result of his work, Hiller earned a $2,500 grant from the Pulitzer Center and Diversify Photo. The Eyewitness Photojournalism Grant, which was launched in the summer of 2020, supports journalists that focus on areas that are underrepresented in the press. The grant highlights stories about underreported issues that are told by photojournalists who are members of, or are close to, the areas in which they are covering. 

“I will use the money for travel expenses. It can very costly traveling around the state to document and help publicize the opioid crisis. I want to continue my work and hopefully help stop this crisis, so the money will greatly help in providing the basic resources for me to do that,” Hiller said.

Harm Reduction Ohio is a non-profit organization that tries to reduce harms associated with ongoing drug use. Its goals are to empower people who are using drugs to care for themselves, help promote health equity, provide nonjudgmental medical services, and end the criminalization of drug users.

A website showing Eli’s work will be launching soon. 

If you or anyone you know is struggling with a drug addiction, please check out https://www.harmreductionohio.org/about/ to find out more about support groups in your area.