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May 12, 2021

5/4/2021 11:29:00 AM
Iowa County Substance Misuse Prevention Committee set to release documentary, sharing the stories of those in recovery

By Kasi Greenwood and Levi Zimmerman
The Iowa County Substance Misuse Prevention Committee's idea of creating a video about drug and alcohol addiction came to fruition when members recognized a need for a more wide-spread message.
The committee was created in January 2019 and is made up of both professionals and community members. Its goal is to educate and provide resources to help prevent substance use, overdoses and reduce the stigma of addiction.
Shortly after Tony Hoffman, former BMX athlete, spoke about substance addiction at area schools, folks that work closely with people who deal with addiction saw the vision for a local documentary-style video.
Mineral Point's Alex Carey, owner of Alex Carey Films, was the videographer, photographer, and editor who brought the whole documentary together.
Carey explained that the committee had brought her on to the project initially to interview six individuals who have shared their stories on recovery. Those individuals are Tristin Kitelinger, Ethan Oman, Shaun Jaco, Ken Kirby, Levi Zimmerman and Jana Lengyel.
"The plan was to just film interviews, so they could play the interviews instead of having their annual conference," Carey said. "Since that didn't happen due to COVID-19, it was best to film the interviews and put them out as a full video."
After the first round of interviews, Carey felt it would be a good idea to morph the individuals into more of a documentary.
"I just kind of presented them with the idea and gave them a sample of, what if instead of each interview individually, we piece them together, and let all six of them tell the story together," Carey said.
That turned into Carey morphing the idea of each person sharing the beginning of their story one right after another. And then from there, stories highlight the next stages of each person's addiction journey, explaining how life overall changed for them.
Carey explained that because of this idea, and knowing how it can create a bigger impact, she informed the committee that it might take a little longer to bring it all together. The committee allowed Carey to proceed, and after some months of working on it it is soon to air.
Even though there is a plethora of substance addiction documentaries, the committee felt that a video that stars locals who struggle with addiction would resonate more with the people of Iowa County.
Jesse Brogley, AODA (Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse) Counselor at Unified Community Services, is one of those members of the committee.
He said, "How could we get local people's stories out to the public, because we have people here that are struggling?"
Brogley's passion for helping others in times of distress started in his personal life when he would be there for anybody who needed him, whether that was to listen or to give advice.
He ran with that passion and earned a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology with an emphasis in substance abuse counseling at UW-Platteville after transferring from Southwest Technical College.
Even though there are similarities in individuals who have substance addition, Brogley has recognized that everyone is different at the same time.
"I feel that I have learned more than I teach from clients, because all of their stories are different, and they matter," he stated.
Childhood trauma is common in individuals who struggle with drug addiction, yet there are different types.
Those differences can be wide-ranging, so there isn't a one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to recovery and therapy.
The documentary shows six people who have substance abuse issues, but there are also six different stories to be told.
Some of the participants found success in recovery from addiction during their time in Iowa County's Drug Treatment Court program.
"Iowa County Drug Treatment Court is specifically designed and staffed to handle cases involving drug offenses through an intensive judicially monitored program of substance abuse treatment, rehabilitation services and community supervision," said Melissa Peterson, who is the Treatment Court Coordinator.
The program is staffed by multiple agencies that include the Department of Corrections, Iowa County Sheriff's Office and District Attorney's Office.
It also works with Unified Community Services to provide individual counseling and inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation; Brogley is the counselor for all of the court participants.
Peterson explained that the program offers individuals the opportunity to get help while living in their communities, as opposed to the traditional sentence of incarceration.
She noted that incarceration mostly just pauses someone's substance use, as many addict's do go back to using when they are released due to the lack of resources and services to achieve long-term recovery.
As opposed to the trend of mass incarceration, Peterson stated that the goal of the Treatment Court is to break the cycle of addiction and to get participants out of the criminal justice system.
She also wants people to recognize that the community as a whole benefits from the effectiveness of this program.
"Treatment Court is cost-effective with an average savings of $6,000 per participant by reducing extended incarceration; it also has a 58 percent reduction in recidivism," said Peterson.
Change is never easy, especially on a larger scale, but if the change results in lower crime rates and an overall savings in finances, the answer seems to be clear.
One of the reasons it is effective is due to the length of time it takes to complete the program. Brogley noted that it takes a minimum of 14 months to graduate from Treatment Court, and that's if a participant does everything perfectly.
The Treatment Court Counselor also explained that the court is built on a tenant of restorative justice and community service as opposed to retribution, which goes along with the old adage of "an eye for an eye."
The ties that participants make with the community only strengthen their recovery and trajectory of living a happy, healthy life.
Change isn't necessarily easy, but changing the stigma of drug and alcohol addiction is crucial for the epidemic to change course.
One of the goals of the documentary is to do away with the stigma that some people have regarding addiction and what it actually is and what it looks like, and results have started to show before it airs.
Peterson said, "I feel the preview has already reduced the stigma of addiction in the community, and we have received so much positive feedback and people are eager to view the entire documentary."
She added that being involved with the production has maintained her hope and renewed her faith in helping those with substance addiction.
Brogley emphasized the importance of people having the courage to talk about their experiences, as it has a positive effect on everybody.
"It's a great feeling to know that their stories will motivate other people to sustain their own recovery," said Brogley.
He uses a piece of advice that he received which is, "love someone until they can love themself."
Our very own sports writer Levi Zimmerman, not only helped to craft this story about the video documentary, he is one of the six people whose story of recovery is presented.
"I have been wanting to be a part of a movie on addiction for some time now," Zimmerman said. "I would watch documentaries like "Dope Sick Love" among many others when I was using or trying to get clean because they made me feel like I wasn't alone and that somebody else knew my pain and how life is."
Zimmerman admitted some hesitation in doing the video, as he felt he needed more 'clean time.' He pushed that hesitation aside, as the message that struck him the most was this project could help someone.
"I've learned that helping others helps you by making you feel good for being there for somebody, and that's definitely true. I wish that I would've known more about addiction and what it really is and looks like when I was a kid," Zimmerman said. "Maybe I would have known better than to play with drugs and alcohol had I seen something like the documentary we have put together now. It hits closer to home when you know somebody who is in the throws of drug addiction, it just sends a stronger message. Addiction doesn't discriminate. white or black, rich or poor, man or woman, educated or not educated, it doesn't matter. If you are prone to addictive behavior, you will become an addict if you take the right or wrong thing. I never wanted to experience what I have, but I did because I didn't have a choice not long after the first time I tried opioids. I like to connect with people and share my experience and knowledge."
Carey stated that going in, she had little knowledge of the struggles of addiction. When filming, she was really taken away by their stories.
"I wanted to be accurate when presenting this video," Carey said. "So in my research, I've learned how much a substance can change the way your brain functions. As a society, we are so hard on someone that messes up or gets addicted. We give them zero credit for trying to fight, but not being able to. For me it's like it's tearing down the stigma within me and hoping that this video tears down the stigma for everybody else. Because these people are struggling. Nobody takes a drug hoping to ruin their life."
"The Road to Recovery" is set to air May 1. Stay tuned in the next couple weeks for more information.

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