Hooked: Kate O’Neill fights opioid addiction stigma in stories about her sister’s death

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)

Kate O’Neill, author, “Hooked: Stories and Solutions from Vermont’s Opioid Crisis,” Seven Days

Addiction, death & a sister’s crusade: Kate O’Neill on Vt’s opiate crisis

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)

Kate O’Neill, author of HOOKED, Seven Days

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Do felons deserve a second chance?

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)

Mickey Wiles, founder, Working Fields