“Combating Addiction with Grace” was the title and hope of a workshop held at First United Methodist Church in Parkersburg on Thursday, August 24. Leaders from local churches, community organizations, and state government met to discuss what we can do about this crisis. The surge of overdoses and drug related violence have taxed community resources; and law enforcement, EMS, and emergency rooms are struggling to provide needed services. This is the third workshop in the Parkersburg area, along with many other workshops being held throughout the state.
This emphasis came of out the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office and is based on efforts in Ohio which have proved successful in the fight against addiction.
Brooke Albright, Consumer Outreach & Compliance Specialist for the Attorney General’s Office, facilitated the workshop. The Attorney General’s Office will provide ongoing support, but the hope is that local leadership will emerge and coordinate the fight against addiction and drug abuse.
These three events have focused on empowering churches and other organizations in the Mid-Ohio Valley to take back their community and battle the drug epidemic in our state. Much information has been provided, such as:
- Important trends and initiatives from West Virginia government officials, law enforcement, and first responders
- The disease of addiction and its physical and emotional impact
- How service providers and community coalitions are making a difference
- Available community resources
- What you and your church can do to combat this epidemic
One of the greatest assets the church can offer is an experience of loving and non-judgmental community. This plays a strategic role in recovery and can be transforming for those who are beaten down by hopelessness and rejection.
The number of efforts currently underway and resources available is encouraging. There are town hall meetings, community drug awareness gatherings, school prevention events and clubs, and several faith-based recovery and support groups for families and addicts. Information was shared on various residential treatment centers, some available at no cost. Ongoing mentoring is available for target groups, such as New Life Ministries, which reaches out to those women trying to break free from prostitution and addiction. A national toll-free hotline offers free and confidential help. Grants are also available for new programs.
Many resources are available, yet gaps in coverage remain and more coordination is needed. Strategic planning could help determine where additional resources are most needed, and which resources would be most effective at meeting certain needs. Enabling the various groups to work together would lead to easier sharing of information and most effective use of resources.
The current efforts are making a difference. Wood County officials responded to 90 overdoses in January, and the average since has dropped to 30. All agreed that much work is still needed. The next meeting will be at Stout United Methodist from 10 – 11:30 a.m. on Monday, September 25. The Community Interfaith Coalition and West Virginia Council of Churches have also designated September 17 as the West Virginia Day of Hope, as a means of focusing our effort toward prevention and recovery from addiction.