For the past few months, reporters at The Post have been researching and reporting on how the opioid epidemic came to impact Athens and Ohio University, all for a special issue devoted to the topic that will be published April 13.
The April issue will not be the first time The Post has tackled the topic — a look through our archives shows student deaths occurred years ago due to heroin or prescription painkiller abuse. In the past few years, reporters have covered the epidemic even more so in the surrounding area, as opioids (including heroin, fentanyl and prescription drugs) resulted in 2,590 overdose deaths in 2015. Still, we might not be doing enough.
Those deaths don’t often go unnoticed by immediate family and friends, though they sometimes go uncovered by news media. As our small team of reporters has seen in the past few months, the stigma surrounding those who speak out about recovery or overdose deaths is immense. Somehow, a problem considered to be at an “epidemic” level has turned an immense, suffering population into an “other.”
One way The Post has attempted to reach out is through a survey that can be filled out online, which our staff has promoted through social media. We have also taken to putting posters around Uptown to see if anyone might want to chat with us. We’ve talked to a lot of people so far, thankfully, but there is no amount of reporting great enough to allow us to tell every side of this important story. We’d sure like to get very, very close.
If our readers know anyone who might have an interesting perspective to give, I would like to strongly encourage them to reach out, even if it is just to share a way we might want to avoid stigma or otherwise problematic coverage of the opioid crisis.
Emma Ockerman is a senior studying journalism and editor-in-chief of The Post. Want to help out as our team of reporters covers the opioid epidemic? Tweet her @eockerman or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org