December 3, 2018
Movie Screening and Panel Discussion
The current opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on average 115 Americans die of an opioid overdose every day. It’s an issue that transcends all geographic and socioeconomic boundaries — affecting people of every ethnicity and age.
NYU College of Global Public Health and John Brademas Center of New York University co-hosted America Addicted: Understanding the Opioid Epidemic, an event that aimed to better understand the issues surrounding the use and abuse of prescription opioid medications. Through a short film, the event told a personal story of a mother who lost her son to a Fentanyl overdose. Immediately following the film, a panel of policy and research experts whose work focuses on combating the epidemic joined in a discussion with the film’s director.
The panel featured Alexandra "Alix" Ginsberg, Senior Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer at the American Psychological Association, Brandon Lavoie, Director and Executive Producer at Lindytown Films, and Courtney McKnight, Clinical Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at NYU College of Global Public Health. The discussion was moderated by Mary Ellen McIntire, Staff Writer at CQ Roll Call.
Alexandra "Alix" Ginsberg is a Senior Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer for the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Education Government Relations Office. Since joining the organization in 2012, Ginsberg has supported APA’s key education advocacy priorities on Capitol Hill, including increasing federal support for the psychology workforce to expand access to high-quality mental and behavioral health services in at-risk communities. In addition, she is responsible for APA’s advocacy related to and campus mental and behavioral health and suicide prevention. Ginsberg received her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and is in the final stages of completing a Master’s in Public Health from the George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Brandon Lavoie is a film producer, director, writer and cinematographer working across documentary, narrative and commercial disciplines. Brandon’s passion for intimate, character-driven stories was developed through osmosis when he got his start working for two-time Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker, Barbara Kopple. He applies an eye for highly cinematic imagery and stringent attention to technical detail, with a very human and down-to-earth sensibility in his approach to visual storytelling. His short films have been selected and screened at festivals and events around the world. Brandon strives to continue creating empathetically-engaging content that every viewer can connect with on an emotional level.
Dr. Courtney McKnight is a Principal Investigator specializing in mixed methods research focused on the epidemiology of drug use, opioid overdose, HIV and HCV infection. Dr. McKnight has over 20 years of experience conducting public health research related to drug use, as well as field experience as a harm reduction service provider.
Prior to joining NYU, Dr. McKnight served as the assistant director of research at the Chemical Dependency Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where she was an investigator and project director on numerous federally funded research studies, including evaluations of syringe services programs; investigations of the drivers that contribute to disparate rates of HIV and HCV; and interventions to increase access to HIV and HCV testing and care.
Previous to Dr. McKnight’s work in research, she directed a harm reduction program for women who use drugs and volunteered at a syringe services program in New Jersey.
Dr. McKnight received her DrPH from the City University of New York Graduate Center, her Master of Public Health from Hunter College, and her Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Rutgers University. Her dissertation examined the impact of Medicaid coverage of methadone and buprenorphine on treatment access for opioid dependent beneficiaries.
Dr. McKnight’s current research interests include examining the shifting landscape of illicit opioids, including the increasing prevalence of illicitly manufactured fentanyl, and risk environments of people who use drugs.
Mary Ellen McIntire is a staff writer for CQ Roll Call covering health care politics and policy. She has reported and written on the Affordable Care Act, prescription drug prices, the opioid crisis and mental health issues, among other things. She is a New Hampshire native and graduate of the George Washington University.
Startled by the death of a former classmate and the bravery of his mother’s statement about her son’s tragic death, Brandon Lavoie’s documentary Hometown: A Portrait of the American Opioid Epidemic, explores the multi-faceted issue of addiction and those whose lives it affects. This story is about Shane Walsh who passed away from a Fentanyl overdose, but it is also about how opioids have come to take such a powerful hold on small communities and the people in them.
The short-film sets to put a human face to the tragic opioid epidemic that’s ravaging communities across the country. People tend to bypass the hopes, dreams, and aspirations someone had before becoming “an addict.” Shane Walsh could be anyone’s child, friend, or loved one, and Salem, New Hampshire could be anyone’s hometown. Through this film, Brandon Lavoie hopes to break the present stigma surrounding addiction and those suffering from it.
Film time: 35 min