Ryan Hampton, Contributor to Huffington Post:
Last week, only days before the The New Yorker published a photo series about the opioid crisis, I was in Dayton, Ohio.
It was nothing like the dramatic, sensationalized images that The New Yorker chose. Opioid users are often depicted as doomed, sick, and dying. We’re described as “clean” when we stop using, and “addicts” if we start. The New Yorker, and every other major news outlet, would have you believe that Montgomery County, Ohio, is nothing but a boneyard. A place where there is no hope. Four days in Dayton proved that they’re wrong — and they’re completely missing the real story.
The truth is, there’s a lot of hope in Dayton. And it’s winning the fight against overdose related deaths. My best friend Garrett Hade and I traveled to Dayton last week to meet with some of the incredible people who are working on the front lines of the drug epidemic. I fell in love with Dayton on my first day. It was beautiful. The white picket fences, friendly neighbors, and community gardens were a strong counterpoint to the health crisis happening right below the surface. When I met the leaders of Dayton’s recovery initiatives, I was sold. Dayton is powerful. Dayton is inspiring. And Dayton is rising.
The people of Dayton are finding real, tangible, powerful solutions to the crisis. Yet, their hard work and dedication is overshadowed by the media’s pornographic obsession with depicting addiction as nothing more than needles, spoons and dead bodies. This is irresponsible, and it undermines the efforts of organizations like Miracle Makers and the Dayton Public Health Department…
…East End Community Services has taken a stand, too, by advocating for families and children affected by addiction. Every year, they connect over 1,000 people to services that help support their growth and stability: helping families, after all, is the best way to heal a community. Its flagship program Miracle Makers creates a safe, positive, nurturing environment for kids. It’s become a haven for children whose parents and families are coping with the effects of substance use. The program’s goal is to help children dream again, and become successful. When I walked in to meet some of the kids and the support staff that work with them daily, I saw a group of happy, laughing kids gathering around to practice mindfulness and meditation. I saw healthy snacks and bright, colorful places to play. I saw success. Why aren’t those smiling faces on the front page of the New York Times?