Bess O’Brien is an award-winning filmmaker whose work has changed the public discourse on issues ranging from addiction to incarceration. Her film The Hungry Heart, about the prescription drug crisis in Vermont, impacted the state’s drug policy. All of Me shone a light on eating disorders and her latest, Coming Home, focuses on ex-prisoners returning to their Vermont communities. O’Brien is currently producing The Listen Up Project, a musical based on the lives of Vermont teens. She is the founder of Kingdom County Productions with her husband, filmmaker Jay Craven. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said, “Every state in the Union should be so lucky to have Bess O’Brien working for them in support of children and families.” (November 20, 2019 broadcast)
In February 2019, 26-year-old Jenna Tatro died of a drug overdose at her family’s home in Johnson, Vermont. Now her parents, Greg and Dawn Tatro, have dedicated themselves to fighting opioid addiction and helping those who suffer with it. The Tatros have established Jenna’s Promise, a nonprofit organization that is building a community-based center in Johnson for people in recovery from addiction. They have renovated a former church and plan to open a coffee shop to both house and employ people in recovery. The Tatros are the owners of G.W. Tatro, a family-owned 60-year-old construction company based in Jeffersonville. They share Jenna’s story, discuss the responsibility of pharmaceutical companies in driving addiction, and describe how they will help those struggling with addiction. (September 25, 2019 broadcast)
Writer Kate O’Neill is on a mission to end the stigma surrounding drug addiction, which she identifies as the biggest barrier to treatment. This mission is personal: her sister, Madelyn Linsenmeir, died in October 2018 after years battling opioid addiction. O’Neill is the author of “Hooked: Stories and Solutions from Vermont’s Opioid Crisis,” a remarkable year-long series of articles in the Vermont news weekly Seven Days. The series explores the state’s opioid epidemic and efforts to address it using traditional journalism, narrative storytelling and O’Neill’s own experiences. O’Neill discusses addiction and pregnancy, links to sex trafficking, and the personal impact of researching and writing about her sister’s death. (September 11, 2019 broadcast)
In the fall of 2018, a young mother, Madelyn Linsenmeir, died of complications related to her heroin addiction. Afterward, Madelyn’s sister, Kate O’Neill, wrote a heartfelt obituary that went viral. O’Neill was subsequently hired by Seven Days to report on Vermont’s opiate crisis in a series called HOOKED. Kate O’Neill discusses her sister’s life and death, who gets addicted and why, and her personal experience with Vermont’s opiate crisis. (March 27, 2019 broadcast)
In 2005, Ben and Jerry’s chief financial officer Mickey Wiles was charged with embezzling more than $300,000 from the company. Wiles pleaded guilty to a felony charge of wire fraud and served two years in federal prison. He confessed that his actions stemmed from alcoholism and substance abuse, and sought treatment.
After his release, Wiles became executive director of the Turning Point Center in Burlington, which assists people in recovery. He later joined the drug testing company Burlington Labs as chief financial officer. He played a key role lobbying in 2016 for passage of “ban the box” legislation in Vermont. In 2017, he founded Working Fields, a staffing agency which helps people in recovery to get a second chance and find a job. He discusses why he embezzled, who gave him a second chance, and his work helping others who have made mistakes. (June 27, 2018 broadcast)