‘Dying in Vein: The Opiate Generation’ screened at The Harbor Theatre

Posted:  Tuesday, July 18, 2017 - 10:15am
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Jenny Mackenzie’s documentary “Dying in Vein” screened at The Harbor Theatre last Friday, July 14 thanks to the sponsorship of the Boothbay Harbor Rotary Club.

The film follows three stories: The first is about two people who are heroin users on the cusp of seeking help for their addiction, the second involves a young man three years sober and who works for an outreach program, and the third is about a family who lost a loved one to an accidental heroin overdose.

“Dying in Vein” was in the making three years ago and, like many documentaries, relied on crowdfunding and a Kickstarter campaign which began over two and a half years ago.

“I make documentaries that are personally connected to my life and all of my films are about things that happened in my life and my experience,” said Mackenzie. “Addiction is deeply personal.”

Mackenzie said that within her family is a brother who has been sober for nine years, her stepmother who has been sober for over 40 years, and a daughter who experienced a frightening encounter with addiction through pills prescribed to her for a knee surgery.

The beginning of this film’s creation goes back to a high school friend of Mackenzie’s daughter. The friend overdosed on heroin. After reading the obituary, the director sent the parents of the friend an email expressing condolences and letting the family know if they ever wanted to tell their story, that a documentary “creates a ripple that creates social change.”

“Two hours later, the father emailed me back asking, ‘Can we meet tomorrow?’ And that was the beginning of ‘Dying in Vein,’” said Mackenzie.

Following the documentary was a question and answer panel with four prominent members of the local, county and state communities: Boothbay Harbor Police Chief Bob Hasch, Midcoast Hospital’s Catherine McConnell LCPC, Maine’s Attorney General Janet Mills and community member Holly Stover who works with the Addiction Outreach Program, Boothbay Region Community Resources and Boothbay Harbor Police Department.

Introducing themselves, panelists jumped right into discussing addiction and what we can do as a community, within our community to create a solution to the issue.

McConnell said addiction is a disease that grabs people’s hearts and minds and keeps people from being able to reclaim their lives from it. Both medical and behavioral treatment are needed, she said, adding: “There’s something underneath the addiction and whatever is under the addiction needs to be dealt with.”

Mills illustrated what the issue looks like at the state level. This past year, there have been 376 drug overdoses with 40 percent of fatal overdoses involving Fentanyl. The range of ages is far greater than most presume, according to Mills, between 18 and 88, and an average age of 43 — the average age of the population in Maine. “It’s a depressing subject, but it’s something we all have to tackle.”

Stover said a lack of Medicaid expansion in Maine is partially to blame for the opioid epidemic. She called it the “perfect storm.”

“You have a whole bunch of people who are really sick, who are denied an insurance benefit that they are incom- eligible for, but because we don’t have Medicaid for single, childless adults, they’re denied that benefit,” Stover said. “It creates a huge gap across the board that we have to rely on other providers.”

Hasch said, being a presence in southern Maine law enforcement, he constantly has other police chiefs approaching him and asking how the Boothbay region is dealing with this problem.

“If we’re seeing this like we are seeing it in this little area, what the heck are they doing in these bigger areas?” Hasch posed. But Portland does not even compare even to a suburb of New York, Hasch said.

“It’s going to take a lot of people stepping up and doing their little part. I think you will find that more and more folks are trying because … (it’s) morphed over years. We’re lucky we have a lot of community support,” he said.

“It took us a long time to get in this deep and it’s going to take a long time to get out,” said Mackenzie. “That’s the reality of it. A problem like this doesn’t just shift … It’s a paradigm shift about the problem … It’s coming from a place of judgment where there is so much shame and stigma around addiction to a place of seeing it as a medical disease and treating those who didn’t used to be us (to) treating them with compassion. We’re treating it in a different way. We’re treating it as a medical crisis.”

As the panel discussion came to an end, Stover made a final stand that earned thunderous applause: “If we can stop calling people junkies, if we can stop calling people dirty, if we can stop skipping to the other side of the sidewalk so we don’t have to deal with it — we will have created a community where recovery is possible.”

“This film doesn’t have all the answers,” said Mackenzie before closing the event. “But what it really is is a tool — it’s a catalyst so that we can come together in communities like this and have discussions and talk about a topic that has really been closeted for a long time.

 “Dying in Vein” is slated to become a Hulu documentary original and will premier this fall.