Proposes Using Big Pharma Settlement Money to Fund Harm Reduction and Radically Reframe How We Prevent, Understand, and Treat Opioids Addiction in the U.S.
Last Day, the chart-topping first podcast from Lemonada Media, focusing on the opioid crisis, is building on its radically empathetic narrative style to make an evidence-based case for harm reduction, and for using the big pharma settlement money to dramatically shift how we prevent, understand, and treat opioid addiction in the United States. Hosted by best-selling author Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Last Day helps listeners understand a seemingly impenetrable epidemic by zooming in on one person’s last day of life and then zooming out to understand how they got there and how we as a society have gotten here. Season 1 is focused on the opioids crisis. Episode 21 of Last Day, called “The Blame Game,” features two experts — Ben Westhoff, author of Fentanyl, Inc. and David Smith, a healthcare economist (who lost his father, sister, and brother to opioids) — explaining why it’s so hard to control supply, who’s really to blame, and, with Wittels Wachs, how to effectively use the inevitable pharma settlement money to curb the crisis.
In this watershed episode, Last Day host Wittels Wachs and Executive Producer Jessica Cordova Kramer (who co-founded Lemonada Media after they both lost a brother to an opioid overdose), weave the knowledge and guidance gathered from experience and experts into the American roadmap for policy-makers, family members, health care providers, and anyone affected by the opioid epidemic. They argue that if the first 20 episodes of exploration are right, harm reduction and a radical reframing of addiction and long-term care are our best ways to immediately curb this epidemic that claims an average of 100 people in the U.S. every day. Further, they believe there is an opportunity to reinvest what could be billions of dollars in settlement money (along with additional federal and state funds) in what works. Wittels Wachs and Cordova Kramer outline the following roadmap:
● Making sure law enforcement, emergency departments, paramedics, families, and primary care physicians have the cultural and skills training, staff, and other resources necessary to understand the disease of addiction. As a norm, professionals and the broader country need to understand, as the show argues repeatedly, that addiction is not a moral failing.
● Investing in overdose prevention sites as needed in communities.
● Redefining the opioids recovery model to a five-year window and set up a dedicated care team for each individual that evolves to offer the support needed in day three and year three, knowing how important it is that the team still be in place throughout the journey of recovery.
● Incentivizing recovery and open, honest care, including through long-term, and in some cases permanent, medically assisted treatments, and eliminating fear-based and punitive treatment requirements such as excessive and expensive urine tests, site visits, etc.
● Investing in and scaling long-term inpatient and outpatient rehabs that have a track record of sustained success in treating opioids use disorder, community by community.
● Creating a recovery continuum for people living in recovery to engage with support in multiple places, including at work through peer and other support, absent of stigma and fear of job loss.
Through the course of the season, Wittels Wachs and the Last Day production team paint an intricate and beautiful audio portrait of every corner of the opioids crisis: from lives lost and loved ones grieving to the daily grind of first responders and the generation of children caught up in the crisis. The team has gone deep to understand the causes of addiction (trauma, genetics, proximity, and chance), juxtapose the opioids crisis with the crack epidemic, and create a strong case for radically increased harm reduction as a mainstream way to extend life while arguing for deep education and knowledge to prevent opioid use disorder as often as possible.
In this episode, the Last Day crew demonstrates through expert story-telling that: 1) addiction is human nature; 2) many are to blame for the epidemic, including the latest wave of fentanyl overdoses that took Cordova Kramer’s brother, Stefano; and 3) what we’ve learned in episodes 1-20, harm reduction and a radical shift in treatment and training, along with prevention, are our best tools for curbing the crisis. Wittels Wachs and Cordova Kramer believe big pharma settlement money, as well as state and federal funds, should be put toward these efforts.
The team at Last Day knows that we can’t replace the lives that were lost, but, if we get this right, we can save untold lives now and also when the next crisis appears.
Last Day launched in September and was quickly featured on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and many other platforms. It was recommended by the New York Times, featured by the Houston Chronicle and Star Tribune, named a top podcast episode for 2019 by Indie Wire, nominated for an iHeart Podcast Award in the Wellness & Fitness category, and is in the running for a multitude of other awards this spring. The podcast features personal, diverse stories from around the country, live town halls, listener calls and emails, and the season wraps officially this fall.
Lemonada Media also has three other chart-topping series (As Me with Sinéad, Good Kids, and Mouthpeace with Michael and Pele Bennett) under its “humanity unfiltered brand” that help their large base of listeners get out of bed in the morning. Lemonada, though new to the podcast scene, was called the most original podcast network by Paper City Magazine.
Lemonada is partnered exclusively with the Westwood One Podcast Network for ad sales and distribution.