Substance Use Disorders and the Overdose Crisis –
Bridging Faith and Science
In the Context of: Culture Race and Ethnicity
Tuesday May 4th, 2021 | 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
The Clinton Foundation
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
The Center for Responsible Leadership
The Clinton Foundation, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and The Centre for Responsible Leadership, please consider this invitation to join a very select group of faith leaders to serve as a member of the Executive Committee for a comprehensive effort of education and action to address the opioid crisis. This program will foster a dialogue between faith and science and the common ground that they share. The dialogue, which will start on May 4th, 2021 from 3 to 4 pm (EDT) as part of a virtual discussion series, will culminate with the creation of a consensus statement that outlines the role of faith leaders in addressing the overdose crisis and actionable steps for faith leaders and their congregations to bring hope and healing to lives touched by addiction.
More than 88,000 Americans died from drug overdose in 2020 and more than two-thirds of these deaths were attributed to opioids. Since COVID-19’s onset, overdose deaths have accelerated across the country and are on track to vastly exceed the number of deaths recorded last year. More than 20 million Americans have a substance use disorder and only ten percent receive treatment. Stigma — at the individual, family, and societal levels — is seen as a primary barrier to treatment and recovery from substance use disorders.
In congregational settings, stigma often manifests as a moral failing or lack of faith. This harmful view of addiction and mental illness prevents faith leaders and their congregations from being true to their charge as ambassadors of healing and reconciliation.
Despite these and other challenges, millions of Americans find recovery from substance use disorders and lead full lives. Research illustrates community connection and a vibrant spirituality — which congregations provide — are key foundations for sustaining continuous, long-term recovery. Many individuals who struggle with substance use disorders, as well as those in recovery, are active members of congregations yet hide this part of their identity because of stigma. Nevertheless, our health stories are our faith stories, and our faith stories are our health stories.
Public health officials have long recognized that faith-based organizations can serve as natural community helpers to bring residents — including underserved and hard-to-reach populations — together with stakeholders who can broaden the reach of prevention, treatment, recovery and harm reduction programs. Faith leaders are a trusted source of support and information that influence attitudes and practices in their communities. In addition, faith leaders have a unique ability to educate and mobilize their communities to address the stigma that all too often blocks access to supportive resources. Yet faith leaders are not often equipped to respond to a substance use crisis due to lack of knowledge or formal training on addiction and familiarity with evidence-based treatment and recovery resources available to assist.
In April 2018, the Clinton Foundation’s Opioid Response Network launched the “Empowering Faith Leaders Program” to equip diverse faith leaders from across the U.S. with knowledge, skills, resources, and confidence to effectively address substance use disorders in their local communities. The program convenes faith leaders from across faith traditions for discussions, lectures and training about the opioid epidemic and evidence- informed strategies for prevention, treatment and recovery, and introduces faith leaders to local resources including prevention organizations, treatment providers, and recovery programs. The program mobilizes faith leaders to plan and execute a community-based engagement project to raise awareness about addiction, reduce stigma, and share lifesaving resources. The Opioid Response Network has worked with over 150 faith leaders in Houston, Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas; Jacksonville, Florida; and Atlanta, Georgia. Now, the Clinton Foundation, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and The Centre for Responsible Leadership — with your guidance, participation, leadership — are excited to combine resources to overcome the opioid crisis by engaging community leaders and fostering this important dialogue about faith and science.
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