Filmmaker to discuss ‘Recovery Boys’ documentary, opioid epidemic

September 27, 2018 | Arts, Events, News, UToday, Honors, Nursing
By Staff

Every day, approximately 130 people die from opioid overdose, and nationally 11.4 million misuse prescription opioids — nearly as large a population as the state of Ohio. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans younger than age 50.

Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon focused on this crisis gripping her home state of West Virginia, the broader Rust Belt, and much of the nation.


Sheldon, an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker and director of the Netflix original documentary “Heroin(e),” will speak at the next Jesup Scott Honors College Distinguished Lecture Thursday, Oct. 4, at 6 p.m. in Collier Building Room 1000 on Health Science Campus.

Attendees will see a screening of her debut feature documentary, “Recovery Boys,” which documents the lives of four men working to transform themselves after years of addiction. A Q&A session and dessert reception will follow.

“The number of people we lose to opioid overdoses daily tragically could not fit into most lecture halls on this campus,” said Dr. Heidi Appel, dean of the Jesup Scott Honors College. “Sheldon’s powerful message in the film is that despite all of the suffering reflected in this statistic, we can find hope.”

Not succumbing to sobering statistics representing all too familiar stories of grief and loss, the film is optimistic. The documentary’s path for these men runs through shattered relationships and strained sobrieties, but also new communities and the promises of lives better led. Their rehabilitation is facilitated by Jacob’s Ladder, a rural West Virginia farmstead that promotes healing through mindful living and the natural rhythm of farm work.

“Whether you’re a fan of documentaries, in the health professions, have had your life touched by the opioid crisis, or just want to meet an amazing young filmmaker out to change the world, you’ll want to join us for this event,” Appel said.

The event is free: Register at

While on campus, Sheldon also will screen portions of “Heroin(e)” Friday, Oct. 5, at 8 a.m. in Rocket Hall Room 1520.

At this second free, public event called “Coping With the Toll of Responding to Opioid Overdoses,” Sheldon will participate in a discussion led by Dr. John Lewton, trauma intervention counselor and owner of Workplace Resources, and Dr. Cheryl McCullumsmith, UT professor and chair of psychiatry. The trio will talk about strategies and resources to promote the well-being of front-line responders and clinicians.

For more information about the Oct. 5 event, contact Betsy Martin in the College of Nursing at or 419.530.5888.

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