Drug epidemic demands churches respond

Published 6:15 am Friday, August 3, 2018


Kentucky Baptist Convention

A report released on July 25 showed there were 1,565 fatal drug overdose deaths in 2017, that’s 11 percent more than the previous year. In response to the report, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin called the rising drug problem “an epidemic in America.”

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As I travel the state, people tell me that “drugs are worse here than in any other county in the state.” While that comment may not be accurate based on the statistics, it is true to them based on their perception because they know people who are using drugs or have overdosed.

Most every family has been touched by the drug epidemic because it is ravaging the bluegrass state. There is no family or church that is exempt from it’s reach. We all know someone who has suffered under this scourge and it demands a response.

We must not remain silent any longer. The drug epidemic demands further engagement by the church. However, our churches feel unprepared to address it. Many pastors will admit that if approached about what to do when a member is trapped in addiction, they don’t know how to help. Likewise, most parents don’t know where to turn or how to help if a child is trapped by drug addiction.

I have experienced first-hand what’s it’s like not knowing where to turn or what to do next when a family member is addicted. It’s a hopeless, desperate feeling of urgency and uncertainty when you must respond quickly and intervene, but aren’t sure how. I lost a nephew to a heroin overdose and then watched as his sister continued down the same path before finding help that would save her life. No one should have to go through that and yet many, many people do, everyday.

It’s time for the church to equip itself to help families in our congregation and the community around us to deal with this evil that prevails. Every community has experienced a fatal overdose and that should be a wake-up call. But will we hear the alarm?

The Kentucky Baptist Convention is equipping church leaders and families to deal with the opioid epidemic by hosting the Breaking the Silence conference on Saturday, August 25 at the Beechland Baptist Church in Louisville.

Participants will hear stories of hope and inspiration from parents who have lost children to drug overdoses. Church leaders will learn the importance of using the correct language, so that stigma doesn’t keep families from seeking help. Attendees will discover the many different treatment options and how each is unique. They will learn that legal and financial assistance is available through things like Casey’s Law and Kinship Care. Participants will be taught about the addicted brain and why treatment must address the mind, body and spirit in-order to be effective. Church leaders and family members will discover the importance of creating an atmosphere within the church and home where those struggling with addiction hear truth while being simultaneously being shown grace and compassion.

The alarm is sounding and it’s time for the church to respond. Will you do your part to break the silence so that this epidemic can be stopped? There is help available and Jesus still sets the captive free. But if we’re silent, they will never know.

Eric Allen is the mission mobilization team leader at the Kentucky Baptist Convention in Louisville. To learn more about Breaking the Silence, visit kybaptist.org/recovery.