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The Second Half of the 32 Town Tour

Hello friends, now that we have finished the 32 town tour and the dust has settled I finally have time to reflect on the second half of the tour.

Our journey took us down to the southern part of the state in late October into November. We had a rockin’ full house– 500 people or more– at the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro! Our wonderful friends The Brattleboro Retreat did a great job in helping to spread the word down in that area and they even threw us a pre-screening party on stage with local community members.

We had an amazing night in the small town of Bellows Falls—a packed house, lots of students from the local high school and a number of health care providers who shared with us their daily struggle to provide for folks wanting to get off pills. Nurses and doctors talked about their hard work and their need for more resources, money and staff.

We also spent time in the Northeast Kingdom (my home turf). Halloween was spent in Barton where we arrived at the Town Hall to find out that there was no heat and a number of the lights didn’t work. So—we schlepped all our equipment into the Town Hall basement meeting room and showed the film down there. About 30 people showed up. Katie, who traveled to every date with us drew a Slavador Dali mustache above her mouth (in the spirit of Halloween) and took tickets from folks with a smile and a handshake. Even though the audience was small we had a great conversation.

Lyndonville and St. Johnsbury were great screenings—a number of local doctors and pediatricians came and talked about their frustration with not being able to refer patients to treatment centers because there were waiting lists in the state. Dr. Ajami aptly commented, “If a person walked into my office and needed his appendix out I would book him for surgery the next day—but if a person walks into my office needing immediate help for his addiction and I can’t find him a bed at a treatment center for a month or 3 months—that is unjust.”

In Hardwick, the local high school raised money from local businesses to cover the screening costs so audience members got to see the movie for free. Lots of folks showed up and we had a terrific Q and A. The same thing happened in Ludlow where free tickets were given out and we had a full house in the newly renovated Town Hall.

In Rutland we screened the film at the local high school where we competed with the Vermont Football Championships going on at the same time as the screening—but we prevailed and packed in 160 people into the school audiotirum including the Mayor and lots of folks in recovery.

Our last weekend was in Addison County where we also played Mt. Abe High School and Vergennes high School during the day. The most important thing that came out of those screenings was that three high school students after seeing the movie came forward to their school counselor and said they needed help with their drug addictions. It made us feel like we were truly making a difference. Our screening at the lovely Vergennes Opera House was great because the Chief of Police George Merkel came and rallied the audience to take action during the Q and A. It’s always good to have law enforcement on your side!

We ended the tour at the beautiful Champlain Valley Universalist Society in Middlebury. What a fabulous modern church. It was a festive evening—the local Turning Point served coffee and some special guests who were in the movie showed up for the last screening to surprise me. There was lots of great testimony during the Q and A around the need for Suboxone doctors in Addison County.

After we packed up the projector, speakers, t-shirts and box office stuff for the last time—Fred, Linda, Katie, Joyce, Lexi, Raina, and me gave each other big hugs and said goodbye. There was a melancholy feeling leaving the tour behind after seven weeks on the road—but we were also pleased to have made such an impact across Vermont and proud of our hard work.

As we drove home, there was a dusting of snow falling from the night sky and I’m sure all of us felt a sense of accomplishment, pride and immense thanks to everyone who worked with us to make this tour a wonderful success.

Onward and upward!

Post script thoughts:

According to Dr. Fred we traveled 4672 miles and showed the film to 7266 people across Vermont on our tour. We collaborated with every Recovery Center in the state, all local branches of The Department of Health, local United Ways, churches, many schools and social service organizations.

Since the tour ended we are getting calls every week from schools, hospitals, health centers, universities and treatment centers across Vermont and into New England to show the movie. We will be screening the film at the state house in collaboration with the Governor to show to all legislators in early February.

We started a real conversation across the state of Vermont with the movie. The amount of heartfelt thanks and personal notes that I have received from community members, parents and health care providers has been overwhelming and heart-warming.

Next steps: distribution into schools, film festivals and national screenings.. This movie has legs–let’s keep it going!!

The take away from the 32 town Vermont tour of The Hungry Heart is that the issue of prescription drug addiction is everywhere across Vermont–small towns, high schools, and cities.

The outpouring of appreciation for raising this topic in communities was amazing–audience members were extremely appreciative of bringing the epidemic of prescription and opiate addiction out into the public and creating a statewide conversation about something that we are all dealing with in our communities.

The number of health care providers at screening that are valiantly working to help addicts in recovery was amazing to see. It was also sobering to hear how overwhelmed they are and how they all need more resources, money and help. There were many parents who came to the screenings who had children that were suffering from opiate addiction and they were clear that they needed more support and so did their kids.

Vermont is doing a fine job in many areas–but we need to stay the course and to continue to improve and bolster our efforts to deal with this epidemic.

We made this movie to raise consciousness in Vermont around prescription drug addiction and that is certainly what we did–for folks that would like to have a screening of the movie in their town, school or organization please call Kingdom County Productions and talk to Bess about booking the movie (802-357-4616). We will be on the road for a long while with this movie. Thanks to everyone who supported the efforts of this tour and the making of The Hungry Heart.