12.20.16: Prescription Pain Meds & The Seventh Fire

Dec 20, 2016

Since 2011, authorities have attempted to curb the growing opioid epidemic by monitoring prescribers, limiting doses, and cracking down on so-called pill mills. The goal is to limit access to addicts. But what do those restrictions mean for the estimated 25 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain?

Plus, The Seventh Fire - a documentary follows two men through the cycle of poverty, addiction, and crime on a northern Minnesota Indian reservation.  

Listen to the full show. 

"Treated Like Addicts"

Overdose deaths involving opioid painkillers quadrupled between 1999 and 2011, hitting a record 18,893 in 2014. The grim, startling statistics amount to an epidemic that local state and federal agencies and institutions are scrambling to stem. Since 2011, a cascade of regulations, policy initiatives and restrictions include close monitoring of prescribers, limits on doses, and crackdowns on so-called pill mills. The goal is to stop dependency before it begins and limit access to addicts. What do those restrictions on painkillers mean for the estimated 25 million Americans who suffer daily with pain - many for decades?

Christopher Zara is news editor at Fast Company and reported on how the crackdown on opioids has affected patients with chronic pain. He wrote a piece called “Treated Like Addicts” for Vice.

Off the Block

Across the United States local jails are often filled by people with serious mental health issues. In Los Angeles, the sheriff’s department says one in four inmates are being treated for their mental health. When mentally ill inmates are released they often end up living on the streets where they’re frequently rearrested in a matter of days. That's the story for LePriest Valentine, who kept winding up in the only sanctuary he could find after getting out of jail: skid row.

This story was part of KCRW's Independent Producer Project's "Off the Block" and was produced by George Lavender.

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org

The Seventh Fire

Pine Point is an Ojibwe village on the White Earth Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota. Residents live in nearly identical, cheaply-built ranch houses. Some are boarded up and covered with gang tags. Cars and trash burn on the streets. It’s a bleak place, depleted of hope.  That’s the picture in The Seventh Fire, a documentary that follows the cycle of poverty and addiction for Native Americans. It was shot in Pine Point - and inside a Minnesota courtroom and prison - where many local gang members end up.

Jack Pettibone Riccobano directed, co-wrote and co-choreographed The Seventh Fire. It was produced by Natalie Portman, Shane Slattery-Quintanilla, and native filmmaker Chris Eyre, who also directed Smoke Signals. You can now watch The Seventh Fire on Netflix. 


THE SEVENTH FIRE - Official Trailer from Jack Pettibone Riccobono on Vimeo.

Twenty Ways to Think About Snow

Just this month, we’ve had a taste the region’s  “wintry mix” – that meteorologist's euphemism that feels a bit like giving up. A Monday-morning storm, drivers slipping on black ice, an icy arctic blast, and then, a mucky day when the temps climb towards fifty degrees. As much as we grumble, about its unpredictability, we can rely on a few things:  the particular silence of snow falling in the dark, the low thunder of snow-plows – the crack of ice underfoot.

Well, that combination got NHPR’s Sean Hurley thinking about snow – something he’s actually been doing for a long long time.  

You can listen to this story again at: Twenty Ways to Think About...Snow