The Parthenon

Faith based leaders partner to fight opioid epidemic

Hunter Ellis, Reporter

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A local group focused on greater inclusion and education surrounding the opioid epidemic hosted the first of six trainings geared toward the faith-based community from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday at Central Christian Church.

The trainings, which are open to local leaders in the faith-based community in the Tri-State, are the result of Faith Community United of Huntington, which includes eight partnering organizations such as First Steps, the Huntington Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, Marshall University, Marshall Health, the Huntington Black Pastors Ministerial Association, Downtown Ministerial Association and United Way of the River Cities.

An initial meeting earlier this summer used focus groups and surveys to gather information from local faith leaders to identify their needs. The trainings have been tailored based on those needs according to Jana Stoner, a member of Faith Community United.

“We’re looking for ways to partner with one another though these discussions and equip community leaders to form a sustainable network,” Stoner said. “This isn’t a one-time event. We’re committed to this partnership.”

This initial training focused on understanding the opioid epidemic, its origin in the area and common myths associated with addiction.

“We hope this session will answer some of the questions raised by faith leaders from our preliminary session,” said Lyn O’Connell, Marshall University’s Screening, Brief Intervention, & Referral to Treatment clinical coordinator. “The addiction epidemic is a complicated issued filled with misconceptions, stigma, and often unintentionally hurtful language and comments. We hope to come alongside the faith community to make positive changes in these areas.”

Trainings will continue monthly, except in December, for the next seven months and will focus on subjects such as humanizing the problem and hearing lessons from long-term recovery, learning actual skills to use with individuals and families and community resources.

Two weeks after each formal training, faith leaders will be offered to an opportunity to meet for an informal Q&A support group at First Steps.

“By building a supportive and educated faith community, we are strengthening the foundation of the Huntington and Tri-State recovery movement,” said Terry Collison, director of First Steps. “Without community support, individuals who leave treatment and resume their lives will struggle to be successful.”

Collison said a sense of community is needed, because no one can tackle the issue alone.

“The piece that’s missing for individuals is support, and that’s what we want the community to give them,” Collison said “You lose hope really quickly if you don’t have somebody to hold hope with you”

Those interested in attending future trainings are asked to send an RSVP to [email protected] For more information, go to the Faith Community United of Huntington page and event on Facebook.

Hunter Ellis can be contacted at [email protected]

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