‘Hooked Rx’: Student Production Raises Awareness About Prescription Abuse

On Jan. 10, 2015, every major broadcast television station in Arizona and 100 radio outlets came together to simultaneously air a 30-minute, commercial-free documentary produced by Arizona State University students on the alarming rise in prescription drug abuse in America.

“Hooked Rx: From Prescription to Addiction,” an investigative report by Cronkite News, the news division of Arizona PBS at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, focuses on the alarming rise in prescription opioid abuse.

“Hooked Rx” builds upon a 2015 Cronkite project “Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona” by uncovering the root of the heroin epidemic through in-depth interviews with recovering prescription pill addicts, law enforcement, government officials, doctors, treatment specialists and public health experts.

More than 100 students under the guidance of 15 faculty members worked on broadcast, digital and new media content for the project under the leadership of Cronkite News Executive Editor Kevin Dale. Cronkite Professor of Practice Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist spearheaded the production of the documentary.

“Since the first ‘Hooked’ project two years ago, Cronkite News has been committed to providing deep and sustained coverage of opioid addiction, which is killing hundreds of Arizonans each year,” said Christopher Callahan, Cronkite dean and CEO of Arizona PBS. “‘Hooked Rx’ is a product of our commitment to reporting this important issue.”

The documentary, produced in association with the Arizona Broadcasters Association, aired statewide on all 32 major broadcast TV stations in Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott and Yuma and most Arizona radio stations.

The evening of the broadcast, the ABA sponsored a call center for viewers seeking counseling on prescription opioid and heroin addiction. A 100-phone center with trained counselors was set up in the Arizona PBS studios.

“I have no doubt there will be lives in Arizona saved or changed from the high rate of addiction to opioid based pharmaceuticals because of this documentary,” ABA President and CEO Art Brooks said. “For those personally in this battle or have a family member struggling with addiction, this program offers a glimpse of the crisis in our state and the opportunity to call in to find the help they are so desperately seeking.”

Nearly 900,000 viewers tuned in across the state on Jan. 10, and its impact was felt almost immediately. The following day, “Cronkite News” spoke to Brock Bevell, owner Blue Vase Recovery Center in Show Low, which was featured in “Hooked Rx.” Bevell said he had already fielded at least a dozen requests for information on getting help for addiction since the documentary aired.

Cronkite graduate student Lily Altavena, who played a key role in the production of the documentary, said the project was an eye-opening experience. She said she traveled across the state to report on the epidemic.

“I’m really grateful on what we’ve been able to do on this project,” she said. “I think it’s really important that we tell this story through the lens of the state of Arizona.”

Watch online: https://cronkitenews.azpbs.org/hookedrx/

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