A video that sought to satirize the drug epidemic in Kokomo has created controversy and, to some, further stigmatized the uphill battle that those struggling with addiction face.
The video, titled “Top 5 Places to O.D. in Kokomo,” from the satirical Facebook page Kokomo Press, showed the creators discussing and ranking different places to overdose in Kokomo. However, the now-deleted video garnered more anger than laughs.
Antonia Sawyer, founder and CEO of ShipHappens, a Howard County-based nonprofit that promotes overdose support through the use of naloxone, said that the video perpetuated stigma against those struggling with substance abuse.
“I felt like the controversy in the video really laid in the public stigma that it has the potential to further perpetuate in our community,” Sawyer said. “It’s insinuating that people who use drugs are seeking ‘nostalgic’ or ‘old-fashioned’ places to overdose. And that drives the narrative that people who use drugs are irresponsible, and they want to die. And with stigma preventing the implementation of further services and other opportunities needed for people who use drugs to improve their quality of life, I feel like this production further demonstrated how much more stigma reduction is needed in this community.”
Sawyer specifically cited the lack of “action” that the creators had in the video.
In comments on the video posted to Facebook, the creators said that the video was intended to be satirical and to raise awareness.
According to the video’s creators, Jordan Grainger and Brian West, the idea for the video came about after they were discussing the “rose-colored glasses kind of viewpoint” that, in their eyes, the citizens of Kokomo have, particularly in regards to the opioid epidemic.
“The whole idea behind it was we wanted to create something with a tone of positivity but about a subject matter that was dark and negative,” Grainger said. “But we’re also watching every day as our citizens in this town are overdosing left and right. And the other half of the citizens are voting against a rehabilitation center and policies that would actually help curve the opioid crisis and the methamphetamine crisis. The subject matter and the tone that we conveyed were on completely different levels and sides of the coin in order to bring awareness and shed light on what we think is an issue that a lot of people are overlooking.”
While they both defended the video as satire, both Grainger and West said that they wished they would have contacted a local organization that assists those battling substance abuse to provide an opportunity for substance abuse education after the video.
The video was removed by Facebook. Since posting the video, the moderators of Kokomo Press have posted links promoting Steps to Success, a program that works to assist those fighting addiction.
The video was published two months after Howard County experienced the highest number of overdose deaths in recent years, with 15 deaths from April 1 to June 20. To date, twenty-four people have died from overdoses in Howard County this year.