Charlene Hipsher has a unique vantage point from which to witness East Tennessee's addiction crisis.
From her position as Executive Assistant to Roane County Prosecutor Russell Johnson, Hipsher sees a daily flow of opiate addicts surging through the courts.
These are people she knows. From families she knows. She says it's heartbreaking to see.
"I'm talking to those parents who are not so different from me," Hipsher says, "and they're burying their kids."
On September 14, 2016, WUOT's TruckBeat team presented a special documentary Life in the Crosshairs; Inside East Tennessee's Addiction Crisis. Producers Jess Mador and Matt Shafer Powell explored the depths of the destruction caused by Roane County's opiate epidemic. We heard the heart-wrenching story of an Oliver Springs man who had to kill his addicted son to protect himself and his family. And with unprecedented access, we saw how members of the Roane County community are coming together to tackle this monumental issue.
"Roane County is not alone in this fight," Powell says. "Every county across this nation is in a similar situation. Families and communities all over are falling victim to the scourge of opiate addiction."
"It's important to examine the impact of opiate addiction, so we can better understand the problem," Mador says. "What's happening in East Tennessee is a microcosm for the nationwide opioid epidemic. Roane County's experience illustrates how some communities are finding local solutions for battling the crisis."
"You have to have that war mentality," Hipsher says. "I'm just going to keep soldiering on and whatever has to happen has to happen. But we've got to look out for the future of this community."