Faith-based leaders address Tennessee opioid crisis

Posted at 4:43 PM, Jun 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-21 09:16:17-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Dozens of faith-based and community leaders gathered in Franklin for the first Faith-Based Opioid Summit.

The state's Office of Minority Health and Disparities Elimination hosted the event with more than 200 people from different types of religion across the state in attendance. The event was packed with small group conversations, testimonials and panel discussions.

The goal was to address the opioid crisis from a faith-based perspective by armoring organizations with the support and resources to handle the problem in their community, and create a bigger awareness.

"People are more willing to go to their pastor for a number of things before they will go to a family member or any other person. Having those champions on the ground in the community, having that collective impact is going to make the change," Office of Minority Health and Disparities Elimination Director Monique Anthony told NewsChannel 5.

Among the speakers was Patience Sneed of the Secret Sister Ministry Outreach in Rutherford County. She battled years of opioid abuse before she turned her life around in 2009. Since then she started the outreach ministry to help female inmates.

Her group teaches ladies wellness and recovery with a faith-based initiative, bible study and mentoring them after they're released.

"We are the church so we take the church with us. We should share that wherever we go, whenever we can," Sneed said.

Churches were encouraged to be certified to provide recovery support, be equipped with the opioid overdose-reversal drug Narcan and partner with anti-drug coalitions.

They can also utilize resources like vans to offer transportation to recovering addicts.

The event was the right boost for attendees like Jawaad Sheikh. He is Muslim and hopes his religious community will learn to be more open to people battling addiction.

"Especially in my culture and faith, Muslims are afraid to speak about these issues. Muslims are seen as more strict so they follow it to the book, but we are humans, all of us are," Sheikh said.

Sneed said it goes for Christianity as well. When it comes to intervention, an open heart and acceptance is key.

"People who are in recovery they go to church looking for that healing and for that comfort and compassion but the stigma that's attached to addiction sometimes have others push you away or they're uncomfortable with helping you because they don't really know how to help," she said.

The state said there was a waiting list because of the interest in the summit. Another one will be planned, although, no date has been set.