Appalachia’s overdose deaths take center stage in Save Our Towns’ season four finale, which showcases a West Virginia mayor’s response to the killer drug epidemic.

As hundreds of millions of prescription painkillers flooded tiny towns, some towns tried to ignore or deny the catastrophe. Not Huntington, West Virginia. The Oscar-nominated Netflix documentary “Heroin(e)” chronicles the efforts of three women, including the city’s fire chief, Jan Rader. Promoted to chief by Mayor Steve Williams in 2017, she has become a key symbol of the city’s aggressive response to the crisis. 

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Elsewhere in the Save Our Towns episode, the Southwest Virginia town of Pennington Gap demonstrates how volunteers drive many of the town’s key efforts. In the segment called Small Town Big Number, Holly Kobia explains the implications of slow population growth. The expert tip comes from Amy Brooks, representing the iconic Appalshop, which has been telling Appalachia’s stories through music, film, and theater for almost 50 years.

Save Our Towns, produced since 2014 by Outreach and International Affairs, speaks to small-town mayors and town managers throughout Appalachia with a mission to guide and inspire those who are working to build strong communities.