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Prosecutor hopes ‘Hit of Hell’ brings awareness to drug epidemic

Prosecutor hopes ‘Hit of Hell’ brings awareness to drug epidemic
Prosecutor hopes ‘Hit of Hell’ brings awareness to drug epidemic
An inmate talks about drug addiction in the documentary "A Hit of Hell" made by Harrison County Prosecutor J. Otto Schalk. Photo by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor

Harrison County Prosecutor J. Otto Schalk is hoping a 43-minute documentary will change the way people, especially teens and young adults, think about drugs.
‘Opiates and heroin affect everyone,’ Schalk said Thursday night at a nearly full theater at Corydon Cinemas prior to the first showing of ‘A Hit of Hell.’
He said the medical community needs to stop over-prescribing medications, adults need to keep legal prescriptions locked up so they don’t get in the wrong hands and educators need to know what to look for as tell-tale signs students may be abusing drugs.
‘Everyone featured in the documentary began their heroin addiction by abusing pills, oftentimes pills that were legally prescribed,’ Schalk said.
‘Frankly, I’m sick and tired of seeing all these young people that are dying in our community as a result of overdoses; these are avoidable deaths,’ Schalk said. ‘The criminal justice system, by its very nature, is reactive. But, by taking proactive measures, such as bringing awareness to this epidemic, hopefully, it will serve to prevent some of these unnecessary losses.’
The film, a six-month-long project produced by Digital IT Now in Corydon and paid for with money seized and forfeited from drug dealers and others in the criminal realm, contains interviews with drug users, medical professionals, a minister, a founder of a recovery support program, a school superintendent and the mother of a teenage girl who died of an overdose.
A 21-year-old female interviewed told how she progressed to using other illicit drugs, saying it was ‘easier to experiment’ once she crossed the line by smoking marijuana.
A young man told how he would steal items to sell so he could pay for his pill addiction, estimated at several hundred dollars a week. He said it became a chore to maintain his addiction just so he wouldn’t experience the sickness that comes from withdrawals.
Another woman told how she had overdosed four times.
Hannah wasn’t as lucky. Her mother, a registered nurse, told about her daughter’s struggles and how she finally succumbed to a drug overdose.
Interest was so great in the documentary that a second showing followed.
Schalk had scheduled the first viewing for invited guests before ‘A Hit of Hell’ is shown to Harrison County students in grades 9 through 12.
‘My original intention was for it to be shown to every high school student in our area,’ Schalk said. ‘But after speaking to many addicts, I soon realized we needed to include students from junior high school as well.’
To increase the documentary’s effectiveness, the prosecutor said he will conduct panel discussions that will include those featured in the documentary.
But the intended audience has grown even more.
‘The crisis we are facing is not exclusive to Harrison County,’ Schalk said. ‘As a result, we are giving every school throughout our region the opportunity to view the documentary.’
The documentary also will be available online at www.hitofhell.com.
‘As a prosecutor, we don’t always get to see the human side of defendants that come through our court,’ Schalk said. ‘However, after speaking with so many recovering addicts while making this documentary, it definitely opened our eyes to some of their struggles.’
Hannah’s family is spearheading raising money to establish a non-profit organization to help promote and educate for a drug- and alcohol-free life. Donations to Hannah’s Angels of Hope can be made online at GoFundMe.com/p/qqvrs or mailed in care of Barb Carver at 2115 Old Highway 135 SW, Corydon, IN 47112.
As viewers left Corydon Cinemas Thursday night, they were given a flyer about disposing of unwanted and expired medications. This can be done on a regular basis at the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. and Milltown Police Dept., as well as during special events, like Saturday’s Drug Take Back Day.
‘It is my hope that seeing the real consequences and real struggles that people in our community are facing will have a greater impact,’ he said. ‘If I can save one person, one life, it will be worth it.’

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