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Addiction to take center stage at River Falls film screening

A young man's deadly, documented battle with addiction is coming to a screen near you.

"Written Off," a documentary film chronicling Wisconsin resident Matt Edwards' fatal encounter with drug addiction, will be screened Monday, March 18, at UW-River Falls.

The screening, which is free and open to the public, is part of an effort by state and local officials to soften the struggle in discussing addiction and to prevent further damage caused by the ripple opioid abuse leaves in its wake.

"I don't care, really, who it reaches as long as it reaches people," said Pierce County Community Justice Coordinating Council coordinator Susan Capparelli.

A panel discussion featuring River Falls Police Chief Gordie Young, Pierce County Circuit Court Judge Joe Boles, Pierce County District Attorney Sean Froelich, Pierce County Drug Court coordinator Mary Kelly and drug court participants will follow the film. The panel will take questions from the public.

State Sen. Patty Schachtner will also be a panelist. She organized the event after first seeing "Written Off" at a conference.

The film, which taps journal entries penned by Edwards during the final two years of his battle, was an eye-opener, even for Schachtner, who also serves as St. Croix County's medical examiner.

"I had no idea that that was what it's like to be addicted," she said.

And she said there's a reason why.

"You never really know what the challenge is because no one ever talks about it," Schachtner said.

Her revelation? It's easy to get hooked into drug addiction, which sunk its claws into Edwards when he was prescribed opioids for a simple toe operation. That led to a decade of abuse that culminated in his 2010 heroin overdose death.

"It really opens your eyes to it," Schachtner said.

Capparelli said she hopes the focus turns to prevention and early intervention. She said the film may help remove barriers to revealing sensitive, uncomfortable realities happening in River Falls and beyond.

She said there are 75 seats available at the screening but they won't turn people away.

"Come," she urged potential attendees, "even if you've got to stand."

If you go:

What: Screening of "Written Off"; panel discussion

When: 6-8 p.m. March 18

Where: UW-River Falls University Center's Riverview Ballroom (second floor), 410 S. Third St.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is a regional/enterprise reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage includes St. Croix County government, higher education and state politics in Wisconsin. 

(651) 301-7867