York Daily Record | York’s opioid problem ‘resides inside our churches’ too (column)

York County’s opioid problem must be a concern for the faith-based community.  The opioid epidemic includes people and families of faith.  It is not a problem “out there” but one that resides inside our churches.

People who battle addictions need to know that the church is not a place of judgment but a center of hope, accountability, and partnership.  Families do not need to be ashamed to talk about the hurt and aloneness they feel as people of faith.  The church must be educated, learn how to help people and understand the need to partner with groups throughout the county.

As a Pastoral Counselor and one who partners with people in our community to combat this rising epidemic, I am learning that strong partnership is necessary between agencies and faith groups.  For example, we have invested financially in our counselors to receive training at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, through the American Association of Christian Counselors, and learn from local professionals who daily work with people who are plagued with substance use.  I appreciate the openness and friendship from these agencies.

Red Lion Area School District Supt. Scott Deisley talks about how the opioid epidemic impacts schools. York Daily Record

As a Christian counselor I believe there are four areas of a person’s life I must address when someone comes to me with a substance issue.  I evaluate how they are doing physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  I rely on the professionals in the community to help me when a client needs extensive help.

Physically, I need to evaluate where someone is on the addiction journey and how are they doing medically.  I make sure they see a physician for general health needs and treatment if I see they need immediate care.  As a faith-based counselor, building partnerships in the community is how I care for the physical needs of the client.

Emotionally, there is often a past of hurt and abuse, which leads to attachment issues, to rejection, anxiety, protective mechanisms, deep heart level issues (fear, anger, guilt, depression, etc.), which leads to a substance.  As a faith-based counselor I will work with people through this process but at times further help is needed.  Partnership with psychologists and recommendations to psychiatrists may be necessary to help a client.

Mentally, the goal is to help people create new brain pathways and make better decisions.  From a faith perspective, the Scriptures speak of renewing the mind and choosing different neurological pathways.  From a psychological point of view, the brain can create new pathways and help in the cognitive process.

Dave Sunday, district attorney-elect, speaks about why people must focus on the heroin epidemic in York County. He said 80 percent of crime in the county is connected to drug activity. York Daily Record

Spiritually, from a faith-based perspective, my goal is to help people dig deep in their healing process for permanent change.  Since people of faith do struggle with substance use and abuse and families are lost in the process, faith plays an important role in helping them.  When I know a person is safe and moving forward in their rehab, regardless of the level of that rehab, I will begin a process of helping them spiritually.  It is amazing how much God says about man’s physical, emotional, and mental needs.  It’s amazing how much God agrees with psychology when it comes to new life patterns and mental health issues.

I want to challenge churches and the faith community to realize substance use and addiction disorders are prevalent in the church.  Telling someone to “just trust God” or “get over it” are not solutions.  We must help our parishioners find counselors, rehabs, and support groups that can help them recover from this epidemic.

And to the community, I can reassure you that there are faith-based counselors like myself, who are trained, continually learning, and partnering with the community to be a legitimate resource for hurting people.

Together, the faith-based community and our county partnerships can be a positive force in helping individuals and families in crisis.

Read more at York’s opioid problem ‘resides inside our churches’ too (column).