The nationwide opiate addiction problem has prompted some area church officials to develop a local resource mission for addicts and their loved ones.
On Oct. 15, the group will host an event to bring together local faith-based organizations, law enforcement and courts, and treatment programs to discuss the matter.
The Isaiah 61 Project is a recovery ministry being developed by Crossway Vineyard Church in partnership with other faith-based organizations, local law enforcement and courts, and treatment professionals. The name is in reference to Isaiah Chapter 61 (Isaiah 61:1: “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners …”).
It is hosting the “Equipping the Church to Respond to the Heroin Epidemic” event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Urbana Nazarene Church, 1999 Scioto St., Urbana. The workshop brings together faith-based organizations to address and combat the opiate epidemic, and help families impacted by heroin addiction recover and heal.
Drug overdoses so far this year are higher than last year, according to Champaign County Sheriff’s Office data. There have been four drug overdoses in the county so far in 2016; there were two in 2015 and six in 2014. Total drug offenses for 2016 are at about half of what they were in 2015 – there are 57 so far in 2016; there were 112 drug offenses in 2015 and 109 in 2014. There have been more trafficking in drugs cases in the county so far this year than either of the past two years, according to Sheriff Matt Melvin’s data. There have been 12 trafficking in drugs cases so far in 2016; there were seven in 2015 and eight in 2014.
“It’s worth a try at this point,” Melvin said, referring to a way to link resources for recovery and treatment. “(The Isaiah 61 Project organizers) want to touch base and get something going and see how we can help each other with addiction and treatment.”
Isaiah 61 is developing a Recovery Resource Center, which will serve as a gateway to community resources to support individuals and families. It will also develop a 90-day faith-based residential treatment program.
Isaiah 61 got its start after Project Director Sheila Clarkson saw the impact addiction had on her family, and she saw there was a need for a place for people to get help.
She met Pastor Kyle Peters when he joined Crossway Vineyard in 2015, and he had a similar vision for a recovery resource.
“I think it’s time for it,” she said of a recovery program that links all resources in the community. “Sometimes as the faith community, we have a tendency to sometimes see it as a clinical. But we do have a lot of answers for the sociological and spiritual aspects of it.”
Peters said a local human resources director told him it is difficult to find employees who can pass a drug test and that many employees often go into work on a drug or otherwise need some help for the issue.
“Everyone needs recovery, not just the addicts we culturally identify as addicts,” he said. “Everyone is in need of recovery of the heart.”
Peters said the Isaiah 61 Project aims to develop a network of recovery resources in the community, among other goals, and the Oct. 15 event will help accomplish that. Though law enforcement and representatives from the local court system will be attending, the workshop is aimed more at the faith community. He said Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine has noted the faith community has been a strong component in fighting the opiate epidemic in the state.
Peters added experts say addiction is a disease that is biological, psychological, sociological and spiritual, and the church can help with the last two of those aspects.
The new recovery mission hopes to be a focal point for all the potential resources in the community to support families and those addicted. Some of those resources include support groups, workshops and treatment programs. The goal is to direct those in need to whatever service they need in the community, Peters said.
“The addiction is not the problem. The addiction is evidence of the problem,” Peters said. “The focus is not on not getting addicted, it’s addressing the deeper issue. If we address the behavior and not the deeper issue, the weed’s just going to grow back in one form or another.”
The recovery mission will help with all types of addictions, not just drugs.
“Someone could get sober from alcohol and turn to food, or from drugs to alcohol,” Clarkson said. “An addiction is about something on the inside. Whatever drives the behavior, if the issue is not taken care of, the person will always turn to something on the outside for relief and escape. It’s for any life-controlling issue.”
Once addiction is present, it affects everyone associated with the addict, Clarkson said.
“After addiction enters the family, there’s destruction and devastation that occurs. A lot of times, even when an addict gets clean and sober and begins to recover, the family is still left with a lot of the consequences, a lot of the devastation,” she said.
Clarkson said as she was dealing with the addiction in her family, she thought there weren’t a lot of resources available to her as a family member. Having this new recovery ministry in town seeks to provide support to the addict and their loved ones, filling that gap.
“Research shows that addicts in recovery who have family members who also recognize the need for recovery, if they work together with the family, the addict has a much higher rate of staying sober and staying in recovery,” she said. “It’s not just an individual issue.”
Clarkson said a lot of what she dealt with was feeling alone, and that it was something her addicted family member had to fix.
“I was feeling like, well, this is my family member’s problem. If they would just get it together, I would be OK and my life would be happy,” she said. “But when the family member got clean and sober and was doing well, I wasn’t happy. That didn’t fix everything for me.”
Clarkson said addicts tend to think the drug will solve problems, and people in the relationship with an addict focus on the addict as a solution to their problems, which doesn’t change when the addict beats the addiction. By recognizing the family member’s own issues and dealing with them, they can then focus on the addict and realize what they may be doing to enable the addiction behavior and stop it.
“I noticed in my own experience when I began to get better and got help and focused on taking care of myself, it shifted things for the addict I loved,” she said. “I wasn’t enabling like I was before. I wasn’t going along with it like I was before. That’s when the addict began to realize maybe I need to get help when I wasn’t there to support it anymore or make excuses or participate in my enabling behavior.”
Registration for the free event can be made to eventbrite.com, using the keyword “equipping the church to respond.” Lunch is provided.
There will be a worship and prayer service the evening of the event. The worship and prayer service will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Gloria Theatre in Urbana. It’s a quarterly faith community event, Peters said, where several churches get together for a worship service combined with prayer.
For more information, contact Kyle Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sheila Clarkson at 937-441-4814.
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.