Naloxone Champions

cartoon with words I love people who use drugs

Call For A Person Who Use Drugs To Contribute To Graphic Novel

Naloxone Champions is looking for one graphic novel artist, specifically an individual (age 21-85) who uses or has formerly used heroin and/or fentanyl, and resides in Colorado, to collaborate with the team in the creation of concept art (10 pages) with multi-panel illustrations.

Individuals who self-identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and/or demonstrate decolonial and end the global drug war sensibilities are strongly encouraged to apply.

This is a paid opportunity. Application deadline extended to Tuesday 30 April 2024.


The 2021 CU Denver Naloxone Champions project was a video-based project to destigmatize Narcan (Naloxone) and promote harm reduction strategies in Colorado. Story themes included opioid use, overdose prevention and Narcan (Naloxone) as a life-saving strategy for reducing drug related harm in Colorado. Watch 76 short videos produced in the project below.

This year, the project is developing a book-length graphic novel with themes based on interview findings, including

  • preventable fatal and non-fatal opioid-related overdoses,
  • overdose reversal approaches,
  • recovery experiences,
  • self- and social stigmas,
  • harm reduction strategies, and
  • syringe access programs. 

ad that says call for artist for graphic novel project

Submission Process

Step 1. By Tuesday 30 April 2024 submit up to three pieces of sample artwork and brief descriptions (100 or more words) about each piece you have submitted.

Step 2. Provide us with your name, telephone number, email address (if available), and any weblink or social media handle (if available) that features your artwork.

Step 3. Submit a description (over 200 words) of your lived and/or living experiences with heroin and/or fentanyl.

Submit artwork and information mentioned above to

Three candidates will be required to meet in-person with our team and out of the three one may be retained for this project. Our conversation with candidates is consistent with project goals to center the voices and stories of those who use or have used heroin and/or fentanyl in our communities as a means to combat overdose and destigmatize their stories, struggles, and experiences.

Short Term Goal

At this early stage in the project, the team is looking for one artist to assist with concept art for an emerging graphic novel. The artist will work closely with team members on the artwork and story, including quick sketches and a series of revisions. The selected artist will receive an honorarium ($1,000. in the form of a university check or Visa cash card). Funds will be disbursed after the Naloxone Champions team members approve the 10 pages with multi-panel illustrations.

Concept art accepted by the individual retained for this project will be integrated into a book-length graphic novel proposal with the goal to secure a contract with a publisher. If the creative work contributed by the artist is included in the published graphic novel, then the artist will receive a portion of any book proceeds based on the number of pages contributed out of the overall total number of pages in the published graphic novel. In any future presentations and events where the conceptual artwork and/or artwork in the published graphic novel is featured, the artist will receive recognition and opportunities to share more of their creative work for networking purposes.  

Meet the Team Members

Marty Otañez (project leader) PhD, Chair and Associate Professor, Anthropology Department, CU Denver. In 2024, Marty is analyzing interview transcripts with 76 individuals who shared experiences related to opioid overdose reversals to promote harm reduction and reduce stigma against drug users. Funds for the 2021 Naloxone Champions project received from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ‘Overdose Data to Action’ grant. Marty is the project organizer for the "Perspectives on Psychedelices: An All-BIPOC Speaker Series" 2024.

Nikketa Burges (advisory committee member) of San Antonio, Texas, is a harm reductionist and person who uses drugs (PWUD).In 2024, she is enrolled as a medical anthropology graduate student in the Anthropology Department, University of Colorado Denver. Nikketa’s background consists of lived and work experience in the child welfare system, homelessness, and sex work. She worked as an army medic, outreach specialist for people experiencing homelessness for the city of San Antonio, and harm reductionist. She is both personally and professionally committed to the health, culturally appropriate and compassionate care for PWUDs and their communities and ending the war on drugs. On 27 March 2024, Nikketa will co-present "A Graphic Novel About Overdose Prevention: A Vision for an Arts-Based Project Co-Created by Medical Anthropologists and People Who Use Drugs" at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, Sante Fe, New Mexico.

Betsy Craft (advisory commitee member) BS, CPFS. After years of chaotic polysubstance use, compounded trauma, numerous, near fatal opioid overdoses, and the revolving doors of incarceration, mandated treatment, and probation sentences, Betsy found a pathway to recovery rooted in harm reduction principles and fostering community through shared life experiences. As a state credentialed Colorado Peer and Family Specialist, she has provided peer support to individuals living in unsheltered homelessness and inside the walls of the Denver jails. As the Community Engagement Consultant for CU Anschutz Missing US research team, she has led recruitment efforts, co-organized a community forum with a cohort of participants with living and lived experience in substance use and/or incarceration on a statewide study that addresses the health impacts of the felonization of fentanyl. 

comic it's time to end the global war on drugs

Click on the cities below to watch a series of short videos about overdose reversal with Narcan/Naloxone, harm reduction and destigmatization of people who use drugs in Colorado.

Video were produced as part of the project "Naloxone Champions: Digital Success Stories of Reversing Opioid Overdoses" with funds from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ‘Overdose Data to Action’ grant. 

For more information contact Marty Otañez, Project Leader and Associate Professor, Anthropology Department, CU Denver,


Community Screenings of Short Videos about Drug Overdose Reversal and Narcan (Naloxone) in Colorado Took Place in August 2021

Dates and Locations 

  • Carson Auditorium, Adams State University, Alamosa, 6:30-8:30pm Wednesday, August 25
  • El Pueblo History Museum, Pueblo, 6:30-8:30pm Thursday, August 26
  • The Fainting Goat Pub, 846 Broadway, Denver, 630-830pm Friday, August 27
  • Fort Collins, 630-830pm Saturday, August 28 (venue details coming soon) 
  • Morgridge Commons/Glenwood Springs Library, 6:30-8:30pm Monday, August 30
  • Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Grand Valley, Grand Junction, 6:30-8:30pm Tuesday, August 31

Additional Project Details

In summer 2021, 76 individuals joined hybrid workshops to make short videos (about 3 minutes) to help reduce stigma and shame associated with drug use.

Participants are Colorado residents.

No experience in video making was needed to participate. 

Image of a post it with words do you have a story to tell

People who use drugs are the main storytellers although we targeted 

  • Individuals interested in drug-related stigma reduction and ending the opioid crisis

  • Opioid users 

  • Friends and family members of opioid users

  • Caregivers and professionals who have helped reverse an opioid overdose

  • Caregivers and professionals such as EMTs, paramedics, nurses, fire fighters and law enforcement employees who have direct experience with Narcan (Naloxone) distribution for harm reduction purposes

Individuals who participated in the project had the option to disguise their faces and voices.



Watch Project Recruitment Ads