Vermont Documentary The Hungry Heart Presents The Realities Of Prescription Drug Addiction In The Green Mountain State
By Cookie Steponaitis
photo by Kingdom County ProductionBringing to light the story of prescription drug addiction, the documentary The Hungry Heart shares the story of teens and adults in the St. Albans area struggling with this growing epidemic facing the entire Green Mountain State. Crafted over two years by filmmaker Bess O’Brien, the documentary is traveling the state and opening eyes, hearts and dialogues in each community it visits.
The Kingdom County Production film The Hungry Heart premiered at local venues and schools around the state. It is the culmination of an intensive two year project focusing on young people in Franklin County who have been caught in the growing epidemic of dependency on prescription drugs. The film is the collective work of a community joining together to face a new wave of addiction that largely goes unseen and unrecognized. The film made the teenagers in the schools who saw it uncomfortable, emotional and sparked dialogue and debate.
The film was shown at Mt. Abraham Union High School and Vergennes Union High School and chronicles the stories of several young people facing addiction and the efforts of local St. Albans physician Fred Holmes to provide treatment for them. The documentary brought to life the realities of addiction’s impact, dispels stereotypes about who gets addicted and focuses the viewer on the struggles, needs and unbelievable shortage of services available for treatment.
The teens and adults in the film offered to share their personal stories through their own voice, painting a somber and often graphic reality of once addicted what a person will do to get more prescription drugs and the downward spiral into the severing of relationships and the impact on the people and communities where they live.
“It was shocking and eye-opening,” shared one VUHS junior. “You don’t think about drug addiction as a part of the scenery and lifestyle of Vermont, but there is no ignoring it now. People were shocked for a different number of reasons. Some were very emotional because they know people with addiction issues. Some have lost family or friends. Still more seemed uncomfortable even talking about the issues in the movie. No one left the film without it impacting them in some way.”
When film maker Bess O’Brien began the two year long process the film was broad in scope and aimed at developing awareness and offering a way for families, people and communities to address, accept, and support the level to which this issue has become interwoven into communities nationally.
In addition to recent meetings led by Senator Patrick Leahy concerning the issue of prescription drug abuse, the film has raised an alarm that has people talking and hopefully acting. Senator Patrick Leahy has held four community-based meetings in Vermont focusing on the increase of prescription drug abuse in the state. Senator Leahy understands that communities need to raise consciousness and create change around this devastating addiction that claims too many lives.
The impact was immediate and sobering for the Addison County students who saw the film. “No one left there without some different thoughts and feelings,” concluded one VUHS senior. And meeting Dr. Holmes and some of the people in the documentary led to conversations that are only a beginning of understanding and a call to action.
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