At the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, we’re working to provide a safe, non-judgmental space for our visitors to talk about a topic that can be shaming and isolating: the opioid crisis.
Our new exhibit, “FIX: Heartbreak and Hope Inside Our Opioid Crisis,” will bring this topic out into the light – and show how all of us can work toward managing this crisis.
The opioid crisis affects all of us, at every level of society. According to the New York Times, opioid overdoses have surpassed car crashes and gun violence, becoming the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 55. Every 11 minutes, another life is lost.
The story for Indiana is one of progress and hope. Indiana once ranked 13 out of the 50 states for overdose mortality, but because the state is addressing the crisis head-on, we are seeing that in Indiana the trend is beginning to look a little different. In 2018, drug overdose deaths declined 12.9% in Indiana – more than twice the rate of improvement nationally. In that same year, the number of opioid pill prescriptions in the state decreased 23%.
Things are improving – but there’s still a long way to go. Even one life lost is one too many.
As a museum, we know one way we can help is by increasing understanding surrounding opioid use disorder. Our primary goal is to shift the conversation so that we can begin to break the stigma.
In creating this exhibit, we worked with more than 50 community partners from around the state who are working on the frontlines of this crisis.
Through hands-on, science-based interactive, we show how this disorder is a brain disease, and just how tough it can be to shake cravings. We demonstrate the power of the language we use, because by changing vocabulary, we can change mindsets. We humanize the opioid crisis through opportunities to hear the stories of real Hoosiers affected. And, using other health crises as a starting place, we illustrate how we’ve been in similar situations before – and that managing a crisis like this is possible.
This topic can be dark – but this exhibit isn’t. Visitors will find a brightly-lit space full of vibrant colors, and we’ve dedicated more than half of the exhibit to recovery and what that can look like. There are many roads to finding recovery, each differing by individual. But, regardless of the path taken, recovery is possible, and there’s hope in that.
By learning the background to the crisis and hearing personal stories, it’s our hope that visitors leave with a renewed sense of empathy – and that their empathy might drive them to do something about the crisis. An area with resources will provide visitors with information regarding where to get help or how to have a tough conversation with a loved one, and also provide ways that they can get involved in helping heal Indiana from this crisis.
This topic can be dark, but there’s hope in how Hoosiers are already working together to address opioid use disorder. There is hope in how we can continue to work together in the future toward solutions.
At the Indiana State Museum, we want to work with our visitors to discover and encourage that hope.
Cathy Ferree is president and CEO of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.