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July 20, 2023 (Cleveland, OH)

The Center for Health Affairs’ Documentary Humanizes the Opioid Crisis, Dismantles Stigma Surrounding Addiction

Released today on The Center for Health Affairs’ YouTube channel, the documentary Igniting Compassion offers a personal look into the lives of Northeast Ohio residents impacted by the opioid crisis and polysubstance use, the clinicians who care for them, and the struggles exacerbated by medical stigma.

Made possible through funding provided by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) grant, the documentary was created by filmmaker Alec Hillyer, multimedia specialist for The Center for Health Affairs; host, writer and producer Carrie Lang, project manager, nonprofit and opioid programs at The Center; and executive producer Amy Terry, The Center’s director of member programming.

Filmed and produced locally, featuring people in recovery and clinicians in Cleveland, this 35-minute documentary is an opportunity to hear directly from those experiencing and treating substance use disorders (SUDs).

“As the opioid epidemic continues to devastate communities nationwide, it is more important than ever to listen to and understand those personally affected by this crisis,” said Terry. “We’re thankful for the opportunity to highlight the wide range of perspectives seen in the film. As this project elevates the voices of people in recovery and humanizes the opioid epidemic through deeply personal stories, it has the power to evoke real change.”

The documentary seeks to dismantle medical stigma associated with substance use and encourages critical conversations and creative solutions needed to mitigate the ongoing epidemic. The storytellers featured in the film hail from varied backgrounds and carry unique perspectives. From clinicians sharing their life-long expertise to individuals sharing their unique pathways to recovery, Igniting Compassion touches on the lessons learned from the barriers that prevent treatment and the stigma that amplifies addiction.

“We’re honored to have been trusted with the personal stories featured in this work,” said Lang. “It is our hope that healthcare professionals and members of our community will view the film and gain a new understanding of and compassion for people who use drugs or are living with SUDs rather than being influenced by the negative stigma that often surrounds substance use.”

Filmed at locations around Cleveland, including Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, MetroHealth, R Place Resources Drop In Center, St. Vincent Charity Community Health Center, Terrapin Bakery, and The Center for Health Affairs, the documentary also features individuals from Ethan Crossing, Project White Butterfly, Thrive for Change, and University Hospitals.

“The people who participated in this project did so with honesty and vulnerability, and we took great care to share their stories respectfully,” said Hillyer. “This film is important because we continue to lose members of our community to addiction and overdose, and it highlights recovery and the fact that care and treatment work. We hope that the film ignites compassion in all facets of our communities.”

View Igniting Compassion.

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