- Associated Press - Thursday, January 26, 2017

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) - A Floyd Knobs native’s documentary work on methamphetamine issues in Delaware County is getting statewide attention.

John Osterhoudt, a videography, photography and theater production student at Ball State University, directed the film “Unmasked: The Stigma of Meth,” part of a collaborative, multi-platform project to bring more awareness to the issues in the county.

“My first goal was to understand the problem,” he said of the documentary. “I genuinely believe we can’t solve any problems unless we understand them.

“From there, I wanted to get into the real humanity of the situation - why people do drugs, how they get into it, the psychology of it.”

To help understand this, Osterhoudt dove into the situation. He carried a manila folder thick with stats of Delaware County - home to Ball State - and its relationship to drugs. He went on ride-alongs with the sheriff’s department and witnessed drug busts. He spent hours talking to the people who would tell their stories in the documentary - listening for hours before he even took notes or started rolling cameras.

The film is part of an overarching project that crosses multiple platforms to best tell the stories of the situation in Delaware County, featuring the film, a 40-page magazine and a website with podcasts, videos and other media.

“We wanted our students to learn that you tell stories in layers, that each of those layers adds to the bigger picture of the story,” Juli Metzger, journalism instructor at Ball State, said.

The students in the program were able to bring the projects to light through $15,000 in grants from the Ball Brothers Foundation, which approached the school with the idea of shedding more light on Delaware County’s drug problems.

“There’s a huge meth problem in Delaware County, and many counties around the state of Indiana,” Ball State telecommunications instructor Terry Heifetz said. “But it takes center stage in Delaware County because enforcement is really tough.”

The project is important, Metzger said, because it helps people understand the issue and see past the arrest numbers. The group was recognized by Indiana legislators Monday for the important work.

“The underlying message is that meth affects every one of us in some fashion,” Metzger said. “It (could be) someone you might know … it affects families in a broad way, it affects the housing stock, it affects economic development, unemployment … so what do we do about it?

“You’ve got to recognize it’s a problem and you’ve got to give people some solutions and point them in the direction that’s actually going to help their lives.”

Heifetz and Metzger thought they’d have trouble getting enough student interest for the 15 original spots in the project. But they ended up with an overwhelming response and made room for 27 students - 25 undergraduate and two graduate students - to be involved.

As the director, Osterhoudt had his hands pretty much in everything surrounding the film, working alongside other journalism and telecommunications students. He had a special interest in the topic after learning from his sister, who had worked in Scott County, which has been devastated by drug abuse.

“As far as Delaware County goes, most people know that (meth) is up here and that it’s a huge problem but they don’t really understand the gravity of it,” he said.

Heifetz said from the very beginning Osterhoudt has possessed an unexpected level of compassion and professionalism.

“For an undergraduate college student, he has a level of maturity and is able to grasp how important this is better than most people can,” Heifetz said. “He took it seriously right from the very beginning. He gave everything for it in that he wanted to be in on all of it.”

Osterhoudt said the experience - in total about three months from start to finish - has helped him grow professionally. He is a much more confident leader and collaborator now.

“I learned that sometimes, it’s going to be really difficult but I proved to myself that I have the skills to solve problems,” he said. “I don’t know how to do everything but I gained the confidence to say ‘OK, here’s what I have to do; I’m not really sure how I’m going to do it but I know I can figure it out.”

It also helped him grow as a person.

“I think gaining that type of empathy where you can really see firsthand is so important,” he said. “A lot of us say we have empathy and I say I have empathy, but there is something different about it when it’s right in front of you.

“It’s no longer some policy issue or some far off hypothetical issue that we can talk about and make assumptions about what all these things mean. It’s real life.”


Source: News and Tribune, https://bit.ly/2jRJeCR


Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., https://www.newsandtribune.com

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