Tag Archives: opioid crisis

Ian Manheimer And Our “Dopesick Nation”

The last time “06880” checked in with Ian Manheimer, he was channeling Robert F. Kennedy.

Ian Manheimer

Manheimer — a 2001 Staples grad, communications and English major at Tulane who works at Charity Buzz, raising funds for dozens of non-profits — has long been committed to social justice.

He founded RFK Young Leaders, a program that inspires young people to work on issues like farm workers’ rights.

Recently, Manheimer turned his focus to the opioid epidemic. He calls it “some of the most important work I’ve ever done.”

Through relatives in Florida, the activist learned of the $1 billion “drug rehabilitation industry.” Centered in Palm Beach County, it seems to involve “just about everyone,” Manheimer says.

For example, dentists own and run rehabilitation clinics. But, Manheimer explains, that’s a euphemism for a “fraudulent funnel that cycles addicts in and out.” The goal is to keep patients addicted, so clinic owners can “bilk the insurance industry.”

These are “serial scammers, following a long South Florida tradition. The industry is filled with gangsters. There’s a real criminal element there.”

Manheimer showed up at one rehabilitation center with a camera. The manager pulled out a gun, and chased him off the property.

Ian Manheimer prepares for a shot.

Manheimer’s brother Jaime worked in unscripted TV. One of his high school classmates explained more about the industry to them.

“Junkie hunters” — also known as “body brokers” — form the marketing arm. They look for “down and out people,” Manheimer says. The hunters offer Xboxes and other goods, to get drug users to enroll in a rehab program.

“They actually auction these guys off to the highest bidder,” Manheimer notes.

Manheimer and his brother developed a television show, exploring and explaining what was happening. They optioned it to a production company.

News media began focusing on the drug rehabilitation industry. Florida officials clamped down a bit.

So Manheimer shifted focus. His new show — “Dope Sick Nation” — looked at how recovering addicts could receive quality care.

Viceland — Vice’s cable network — bought 10 episodes. They air Wednesdays at 10 p.m. Rather than serving an expose, the show is human interest.

Recovering addicts Frankie Holmes and Allie Severino offer crisis intervention services to drug addicts, as they move into treatment.  They are featured in “Dopesick Nation.”

Each episode features 2 people — without insurance — in crisis. As they seek quality care, “Dopesick Nation” tells their stories.

Manheimer is passionate about the opioid crisis. The mortality rate is far higher than AIDS or breast cancer, he says. It’s bankrupting communities.

And — with the rising popularity of synthetic drugs like fentanyl — it’s getting worse.

“It’s the biggest public health crisis since the Spanish flu” exactly 100 years ago, he notes.

Like his hero RFK, Manheimer is drawn to big questions about humanity.

“This is a spiritual issue,” he says of the opioid epidemic.

“Why is it happening here? Why now? Why are millions of people attracted to a drug with such a high risk of overdosing and dying? Why are users clustered, and why are they predominantly where they are?”

He does not know the answer.

No one does.

But thanks to Ian Manheimer’s “Dopesick Nation,” viewers around the country are now motivated to think about them.

(Click here for all Viceland episodes.)

5 Years After Son’s Drug Death, Jim Hood Asks: “Where Is The Outrage?”

Yesterday, President Trump asked the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

Jim Hood — founder and chief executive of the national non-profit organization Facing Addiction — told the New York  Times that while he was grateful for the president’s remarks, he was concerned they missed the mark.

Hood — a Westport resident — said, “That undercurrent that if all of you just decided not to do this, we’d be in a better place — I can tell you, my son did not decide that he wanted to become addicted, much less die. We might have been much better served by framing this as a very serious illness, a very serious health issue.”

Hood’s son Austin died of an accidental overdose 5 years to the day before Trump’s announcement. On that anniversary, Hood posted on Facebook a poignant letter to his son:

Dear Austin,

I know I don’t need to send this note because I believe in a higher power, which means you received this message before I thought of it. Still, on this 5th anniversary of your sudden passing, I need to reach out within this earthly realm. As a mere mortal, and your brokenhearted dad, it is all I have to stay connected. And I pray sending this might help others.

Austin Hood

I think back on your 6-year journey with addiction. You were such a sweet, loving, talented, gifted, wonderful boy. You surely had no desire or intention to become addicted, but a swirl of influences conspired against you to bring that illness – and it is, irrefutably, an illness – upon you. You fought mightily to overcome the chains of addiction: willing to see endless therapists, endure wilderness, leave your family to go to therapeutic boarding school, and so much more. You gave it all you had.

Six long years later, you were finally on the mend. You were never been more centered, and I never more optimistic. The future was bright. You were ready to conquer the world.

Then, in a heartbeat, you were gone.  My beautiful boy was dead. No more twice-a-day texts, calls about this crazy world, funny messages, or anything. Nothing more. Forever.

At your memorial service I pledged to do everything I can to help other wonderful, loving people like you from losing their lives, and spare other families that anguish.

Since then, many amazing people came together to create #FacingAddiction. We are making a difference. And on days, like this, when I can hardly get out of bed, I am inspired by those astonishing people who, like me, want to turn the tide on this crisis and bring help and hope to tens of millions. And I am humbled that they all know about you, although none ever met you.

Austin Hood

But I still wonder why there is not more outrage. We come together as a nation when there are shootings, earthquakes, and hurricanes — as we should. Yet addiction is the leading cause of death in our country among people under the age of 40. One in 3 households is impacted by this scourge. Somebody, usually a young adult, dies every 4 minutes — the equivalent of a jumbo jet falling from the sky every day, with no survivors. I pray America very soon adds addiction to that list of “disasters” we must care about, and respond to, with our love, concern, help, and money.

Today, for the first time, I re-read my remarks at your service. I said, “I hope you know how much I love you, my son.  And I hope you know how hard I tried to help you.  If you feel I did not do enough, I hope you will forgive me.  And know that I will love you and miss you every day.”

It is even more true today, Austin.  I love you and miss you so much. And I know I will see you again someday.

All my love,

Jim Hood, and Austin.