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How has the opioid crisis affected the diocese?

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In July, diocesan Catholic Charities sent a parish survey to learn how the opioid crisis has impacted people in the pews. Fifty-four people from different parishes responded. Some of the respondees also attended the quarterly opioid response meeting hosted by Catholic Charities at Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria Aug. 7. There they discussed what needs to be done to help people suffering from addiction and their families.

They also heard from Art Bennett, president and CEO of Catholic Charities. They learned more about Calix, a group for Catholic addicts and those who have been affected by the addiction of their loved ones. They listened to the testimony of Joshua Cagney, a recovering alcoholic who was incarcerated and now works for New Paradigm Recovery. Catholic Charities clinical counselor Lorzeno Resendez explained how those ministering to people with addiction can maintain healthy boundaries in the midst of chaotic situations.

Here are a few of the Catholic Charities survey responses.

How has your community, or family, been impacted by the opioid crisis?

The parish has ministered to many families who have been impacted by the crisis. We have had funerals for six to eight young adults, and helped their parents and families through the grieving process.

As (a) parish receptionist — addiction references, especially non-English speaking; and death/funeral response.

Personally, we have been greatly impacted. Our son is a heroin addict in recovery. There was a lot of shame and we felt we were the only ones. So many couples now come to us for advice and counsel.

Not by opioids but other addiction issues.

I am a professional working with this population. Thankfully, my family has not been impacted, however, our community has been significantly impacted with addiction, overdose and death.

What resources do you think are needed to assist those who suffer from addiction?

More cooperation from (the) medical community in discussion of opioid dependency before prescribing.

I believe it is important for them to have a safe place to be heard and listened to as they carry their crosses.

True pain management. Healthcare throws medicine and not alternative healing and coping. Detox facilities, post-detox therapy and accountability teams.

Medical and addiction programs with strong faith-based structure.

Meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous in the area, carpool groups for addicts, treatment centers parishioners have used and contacts to discuss, prayer and Bible study groups for the addicts. For those charged with drug possession and being released from jail, we need sober housing.

What resources are needed for their families?

Prayer warriors to storm heaven for them and their loved ones. They need to have the power of prayer to defeat the powers of evil and darkness. Counseling is needed on all fronts. There are so many issues to deal with as they go through their crises.

Support from other families who are experiencing the harmful consequences of opioid abuse.

Removing the stigma and listening to their needs, providing support groups in churches. 

Education and, if necessary, money. 

1. A network of other families willing to provide experiences and hope 2. Catholic Bible study and prayer groups for families in the battle 3. Al Anon and Nar Anon meetings in the area 4. Good counseling resources.

Where do you see parishes and the diocese assisting during this crisis?

Building familiar, responsive staff relationships (that) encourages volunteers and families to ask for critical help when needed. 

Small groups of faith gatherings, welcoming evening events to support families dealing with this, possibly informational videos available for check out, a night of question and answer from a professional sponsored by one of the parish groups — say Praying College Moms or the young adult groups. 

Perhaps this should be preached from the pulpit? Perhaps resources could be published in the bulletin. 

Most parishes are unaware of the complexity of the crisis. At a minimum, parishes should stock brochures on where to get help. 

Something comparable to Samaritan Fund to help families who are financially unable to access quality help.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019

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