On Tuesday night, Jan. 2, the A&E Network’s documentary series “Intervention” started its 18th season with a new approach. While previous segments of the show have focused on individual addicts (or alcoholics) and their families, the new season will tell the interrelated stories of people impacted by the current opioid crisis, in a single geographic location: a cluster of affluent communities within the suburbs of Atlanta, Ga., known as “The Heroin Triangle.”
The show’s veteran interventionists – Candy Finnigan, Ken Seeley, and Donna Chavous – worked with interventionist and Georgia native Heather Hayes on the new episodes, along with a new team member, Michael Gonzales.
The Influence spoke with Tom Greenhut, who has been Intervention’s executive producer for the past 2 ½ years.
Influence: How/why did you decide to adopt this community-focused (rather than individual-focused) approach?
Greenhut: I think that there is a misnomer with respect to the current epidemic. Those of us who have watched over the last 15 years or so, have seen the numbers growing across the country. In the last year and a half, we saw a few documentaries pop up, but the journalistic model, while important, tends to point a finger at an issue, bringing awareness to the problem but not offering solutions. We knew that we had the means to do better than that.
We’re not journalists. Our approach, which has been with Intervention since the beginning, is to bring hope and help. It seemed that our best opportunity to try to bring a greater understanding of the crisis was to embed ourselves in one of the many ground zeros, and get as many perspectives as possible, from the people on the front lines of the fight (police, paramedics, etc) to the addicts and their families. We chose to serialize the season to allow for more of this in-depth approach.
Influence: Why did you decide on this particular locale?
Greenhut: A lot of our country still doesn’t understand just how bad the opioid/heroin crisis has become. There is still a lot of “it’s not in my town” denial, so we felt strongly that we wanted to focus on one of the many unexpected areas in the country to garner greater awareness. Our hope is to continue this new journey in other cities.
Influence: What do you hope to accomplish with this season’s Intervention episodes?
Greenhut: The goal of Intervention has always been simple in approaching a complex problem. We want to affect change on a person-to-person level, helping as many addicts as we can to find sobriety through long term treatment. And through the courage that these individuals and their families show and sharing their personal stories and struggles, we hope to inspire much needed empathy and understanding for the millions of viewers who tune in.
Influence: Are you considering other locales for future shows?
Greenhut: We aren’t quite at the place to talk about future locales as of yet, but we are hopeful that we can bring this new approach to many cities across the U.S. While hope and help is our rallying cry, we also want to remind our country that it really does take communities coming together with tangible solutions to make a real dent in the crisis.
Influence: What can say about how the counseling team is approaching this challenge; how is it different from dealing with individual addicts?
Greenhut: My hope is that fans of the show will see what we have seen – that there is incredible value in focusing on the struggles and solutions in one area – but our approach with addicts and their families, at its core, has not changed. What is unique is that we are showing more of the work that interventionists do to attempt to get families on the same page before they even intervene. It’s definitely a deeper dive into the process.
Influence: What kind of reaction have you gotten to these Atlanta shows so far?
Greenhut: We are heartened by the response we’ve seen online by fans and hopeful that people will tune in.