The definition of a heroine is, “a woman noted for courageous acts or nobility of character.” The Netflix Original documentary “Heroin(e)” directed by Elaine McMillion Sheldon, brings that definition to life as it follows the lives of three courageous women who are battling West Virginia’s opioid epidemic every single day: a judge, a fire chief, and a street missionary.
Huntington, West Virginia: The Heart of the Opioid Crisis
“Heroin(e)” is filmed in Huntington, West Virginia, the epicenter of the opioid crisis. This town has been referred to as the overdose capital of America, and the overdose death rate is ten times the national average.1 Huntington is home to a large number of blue-collar workers—hardworking people who do a lot of manual labor. These types of jobs often lead to injuries, and many people get hooked on prescription opioids after coming by them honestly. Once their supply runs out and they can’t get any more pain pills from the doctor, many of these people turn to opioids like heroin for relief. The combination of unemployment, hopelessness, and lack of education is a deadly mixture, and the community suffers immensely. Now drug users in the community have started turning to even stronger opioids, like fentanyl and carfentanil, and the public health crisis is worsening. It is estimated that of the 100,000 people who live in Huntington and Cabell County, 10,000 of them have become addicted to opioids such as heroin and pain pills.2 In the wake of such a devastating national crisis and all the horrific news reports about overdose deaths and opioid addiction, “Heroin(e)” offers a real but optimistic outlook on the situation. In just 39 minutes of film, this documentary leaves you feeling hopeful, like the daily actions of one (or three) people could actually make a difference. And that you could even do something to make a difference too.
Three Women Fighting Opioid Addiction
The film’s three central characters, Jan Rader, Judge Patricia Keller, and Necia Freeman, each play a different role in the fight against opioid addiction. Jan Rader, Deputy Chief at the Huntington Fire Department, spends her days responding to emergency overdose calls. She is a self-proclaimed people helper with professional experience as a medic and a nurse. “I’m built for this,” she says. Not only does she save people’s lives by administering Naloxone and handing it out to emergency responders around the county, but she also encourages individuals who have overdosed to seek treatment and get involved in a drug rehab program. Judge Patricia Keller of the Cabell County Drug Court provides direction and structure for convicted drug abusers and individuals with drug dependency problems. She rules with a firm yet loving hand, emphasizing honesty, discipline, and celebrating the successes of offenders who are actively pursuing a life of sobriety. Necia Freeman is a street missionary with the Brown Bag Ministry. Every Wednesday, she drives up and down the streets of Huntington, engaging prostitutes in conversation and giving them food and personal care products. She fights for these women daily by building relationships with them and helping them locate drug rehab centers where they can start a new life.
Key Takeaways from “Heroin(e)”
“Heroin(e)” is a brief but raw look at the opioid crisis in Huntington, West Virginia, and a glimpse of what it might look like elsewhere as well. Although short, this documentary provides some powerful key takeaways.
It’s important to treat people like people, not addicts. Although each main character in this documentary addresses opioid addiction in a different way, all three of them share one thing in common: they truly care about the people they are helping and they treat them with respect and dignity.
Everyone can do something to improve their community. You may not be a judge or a fire chief, but you have plenty of resources and opportunities to get involved.
The opioid crisis won’t be solved with one single solution or by one person. At the end of the film, we watch Jan answer questions in an interview before she quickly takes off to respond to another overdose call. This final scene is a telling story in and of itself. The opioid crisis will continue and there isn’t a single solution that will fix it. It will require teamwork and the willingness of many individuals like Jan to beat it.
Getting Help for Opioid Addiction
For some people, this documentary might be all too real. If you or a loved one is suffering from opioid addiction, Nova Recovery Center can help. We provide individualized drug and alcohol rehab programs and specialize in helping those who suffer from chronic relapse. Whether this is your first or your fiftieth time trying to get sober, our caring and experienced staff members are here for you. Call Nova today to learn more about our long-term rehab program or to enroll today. References: