Delta student tackling local opiod crisis through film

Video by J. Maxim Schofield.

By Josie Norris, editor-in-chief. 

The word “stigmatic” has multiple definitions. In the medical world it can refer to a physical mark. In botany, a stigma is part of a pistil in a female flower that receives pollen. However, the word is most commonly used in the realm of society as “stigma” – something that is shameful.

Delta student Garret Morgan is the director and co-writer of “Stigmatic: Our Opioid Crisis” and explains that the film “gradually builds all this together. So, first you’re given the definition, and it kind of explores each thing.”

“Stigmatic: Our Opioid Crisis” touches on all three definitions as he and fellow filmmakers show that the national opioid epidemic is in the backyard of the Great Lakes Bay Region.

“‘Stigmatic’ focuses on the national opioid epidemic by way of mid-Michigan. Obviously we started with Bay County, where we’re from,” explains Keith Schnabel, who co-wrote and produced the film.

The opioid epidemic is personal for the two, as one of their classmates from high school recently died from an overdose.

The feature-length documentary is not the first documentary project Schnabel and Morgan have undertaken. A year ago Schnabel and Morgan were hired through McLaren to make videos for Safe Journey, a task force aimed to reduce the use of harmful substance use before, during and after pregnancy.

As they talked with individuals who were experts and those who dealt with substance abuse themselves, the topic of opioid addiction came up multiple times, and they knew there was a story to be explored in a long-form piece.

“I think people – when they think about the epidemic – they don’t really think about it in the scope of their hometown,” explains Morgan.

Schnabel hopes the film makes the opioid epidemic personal for people.

“It’s one thing to see on CNN that in the abstract that there is an opioid epidemic… I sincerely hope that seeing Saginaw streets and Bay City streets and local residents who are in recovery themselves and local medical professionals that work at McLaren who deal with this every day. Hopefully that makes it real because it’s happening right here right now.”

Morgan and Schnabel went to school since elementary school together and have made several videos in the past, but nothing on the scale of a feature-length documentary. Last winter, the duo created a documentary about the ongoing Flint water crisis for a political science class project.

“Stigmatic” was a “huge learning experience” for Morgan, as the film’s creators made the film on “very, very much a shoestring budget” as Schnabel explains.

“We’ve had a blast working on projects,” says Schnabel.  

“Just because we’ve been doing it for so long, it’s very easy to work together and know where your ideas are coming from,” says Morgan.

For Morgan, the filmmaking process changed the way he looked at the community he’s lived in all his life through talking with people he would have never otherwise met.

“There’s this personal connection of all being a part of this community. And especially when I found out about that classmate of mine, all of the sudden it’s [the epidemic] personal, and then you start talking to people about it that you never would have talked to before. You start to realize that everybody knows someone [affected by it],” says Morgan.

Next month, both Morgan and Schnabel will be moving out of the area to continue their education. Morgan will be attending Ferris State for his bachelors in television and electronic media production while Schnabel will be taking course with Second City. The two described “Stigmatic” as a final bow of sorts.

“This is very much a swansong to a filmmaking partnership, but also to our hometown,” says Schnabel.   

Updates on the film’s premiere date and other announcements will be made on the film’s Facebook page at

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