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Photographer Matt Slaby on his new exhibit documenting those affected by heroin overdoses

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It turns out, and this is kind of shocking in a sarcastic way, I guess, when you treat people like human beings -- with basic dignity, respect and a little bit of understanding or at least an attempt to understand their position -- whether or not you agree with the underlying behavior, you can learn an awful lot about people. In this instance, the thing that really challenged me was, this isn't like homelessness, where the problem isn't tractable in so many ways. This problem has a solution, and the solution is really clear: If you want to eliminate hepatitis C and HIV, particularly in this population -- because this is an epidemic outbreak among this population -- all you have to do is change the vector of transmission. All you have to do is change the needle. That's it.

So your choice is, again whether or not you agree with the behavior, you can look at it on a human level and say, should people be dying because of addiction? That is question that I would answer no. You can ask from a financial standpoint -- what about the half a million dollars in treatment for HIV? What it takes to prevent that is a ten-cent needle. With Hepatitis C it is the very same thing -- you're looking at some pretty gnarly treatments, ranging $80,000 and up for something that has a very small change that would affect the outcome.

The same thing goes for overdoses -- this is a little bit more complicated subject, because it starts to get into why is there an epidemic of overdoses right now. Do we suddenly just have more people dependent on opioids? If you look at different data coming out of different cities, you start to see that there's been a trend in the last ten years or so, particularly in the last three to five, for the prescription of opioids and a dependence on opioids. You can see a correlation to a pretty significant number of fatal overdoses. About a doubling in the last ten years, nationwide.

We're good at blaming the addict and at some point, you know, there is a tipping point where I think that viewpoint is valid. But it's not hundred percent and it is more complex that that -- you have to look at it differently. Rush Limbaugh is a really good example of the type of dependency that exists right now, among a lot of people. From a street level perspective, you can also track that trajectory.

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Bree Davies is a multimedia journalist, artist advocate and community organizer born and raised in Denver. Rooted in the world of Do-It-Yourself arts and music, Davies co-founded Titwrench experimental music festival, is host of the local music and comedy show Sounds on 29th on CPT12 Colorado Public Television and is creator and host of the civic and social issue-focused podcast, Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? Her work is centered on a passionate advocacy for all ages, accessible, inclusive, non-commercial and autonomous DIY art spaces and music venues in Denver.
Contact: Bree Davies