Nuts and Bolts Blog – November 12, 2018
Last week, Bishop Gibbs shared a post on Facebook from Bishops United Against Gun Violence containing a litany for many of the mass shootings that have occurred in recent years. On Sunday, the good people of St Michael and All Angels in Cambridge Junction prayed the litany together during our worship time. Praying through the four pages of shooting locations and recalling how many innocent lives were lost was a very moving experience, indeed.
We must continue speaking out about the tragedy of mass shootings and lobby for better gun control but it’s not the only tragedy that needs our attention to prevent the loss of more lives. According to the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) statistics, the number of opioid overdose deaths has increased from around 12,000 in 2002 to almost 50,000 in 2017. Looking at the many graphs and statistics they share on their website, the story is the same: we have a serious problem in this country.
At our 184th Diocesan Convention last October we passed Resolution 1: Opioid Crisis that was prompted by Resolution C037: Call to Respond to Opioid Epidemic from last summer’s General Convention. Our diocesan resolution reads:
Resolved, that the 184th Convention of the Diocese of Michigan urges the people and worshipping communities thereof to study all parts of C037 Call to Respond to Opioid Epidemic adopted in July by the 79th General Convention detailing our nation’s opioid public health crisis; and be it further
Resolved, that the 184th Convention of the Diocese of Michigan urges each participant to contact legislators in support of legislation that strengthens and funds the fight against opioid addiction, specifically HB 5085 and/or any other act designed to eliminate or lessen the harm caused by this public health crisis; and be it further
Resolved, that the 184th Convention of the Diocese of Michigan urges people to visit websites with resources helping in the battle against opioid addiction such as Bryan’s HOPE (Heroin & Opiate Prevention & Education), www.bryanshope.org; and be it further
Resoloved, that the 184th Convention of the Diocese of Michigan encourage deaneries and congregations to explore opportunities to work together with Bryan’s HOPE and other organizations to eliminate or lessen this public health crisis.
Please remember that while our Convention passed Resolution 1: Opioid Crisis, the rationale is a separate document and only included here to provide sufficient background information for your own action. This explanation, as well as the resolution itself, references Michigan HB-5085 which, as of this writing, has passed the House with changes but has not yet passed the Senate.
The opioid overdose crisis in our nation is the deadliest in history. Overdoses constitute the leading cause of death for Americans under 50-years-old, killing more people than guns or auto accidents, and doing so at a rate faster than the HIV epidemic at its peak. Michigan deaths have more than tripled during the last decade, reaching 1,762 deaths in 2016 (almost five deaths per day). These facts and statistics were cited by Ms. Emily Pasman, a master of social work student at Michigan State University and guest columnist for the Lansing State Journal (Viewpoints – Your Turn) on August 19, an advocate for drug policy and criminal justice reform, she is also the source for the next paragraph.
Michigan House Bill 5085 offers a practical solution to the addiction epidemic by providing sustainable, dedicated funding for substance abuse services. Every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs yields a return of between four to seven dollars in reduced drug-related crime and criminal justice costs. Thus, the level of investment could yield over $170 million in criminal justice savings and healthcare costs. HB 5085 will also reduce the human and social costs of addiction by expanding evidence-based prevention programs, increasing access to treatment, and supporting long-term recovery.
Bryan’s HOPE (Heroin & Opiate Prevention & Education) is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization located in Oakland County and named after one of Jeannie Richard’s sons, who died from addiction. Bryan’s HOPE is “a concerned group of citizens coming together to provide awareness and education in the battle against heroin and opiate addiction,” Ms. Richards herself is a Certified Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution (OEND) Responder Trainer. She and Ms. Francine Zysk presented “Project Opiate” at the 2018 Ministry Fair. Contact Ms. Zysk at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about Project Opiate and its operation in Livingston County.
Hopefully, HB 5085 will have become law by October 27th, but it is incumbent on each of us to add our voices if necessary legislation has not passed. We need to remain active as this is not a partisan issue and everyone is vulnerable. It is, also, important to have specific representatives from our churches that will be active in helping to eliminate this public health crisis.
Our resolution asks that individuals contact legislators in support of appropriate action to mitigate the opioid problem, including HB-5085. You can find the contact info for your member of the Michigan House here and your senator here. By passing this resolution, we also agreed to network with groups like Bryan’s HOPE whose mission statement reads:
We are a concerned group of citizens coming together to provide AWARENESS and EDUCATION in the battle against HEROIN and OPIATE ADDICTION.
Since our resolution was born out of Resolution C037 from General Convention, I thought it might be helpful to include it here:
C037: Call to Respond to Opioid Epidemic
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention call all dioceses and parishes in The Episcopal Church to respond to the opioid epidemic with training, pastoral care, advocacy, and liturgy; and be it further
Resolved, That dioceses and parishes be urged to: partner with First Responders and others in the medical community to host trainings on how to administer naloxone in the event of an overdose; partner with other faith communities and recovery programs in their local contexts to offer pastoral care to those affected by this epidemic; partner with other faith leaders to advocate with local and state government regarding policies and laws to promote healing and wholeness for those affected by this epidemic; and be it further
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention direct the Office of Government Relations of The Episcopal Church to advocate for the federal government of the United States to address this as public health crisis, affirming that opioid use disorder is a disease, which needs adequate resources for treatment options; and be it further
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention direct the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to develop additional liturgical resources to address the needs and concerns of those whose lives have been profoundly affected by this epidemic; and be it further
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention concurrently acknowledge the purpose and value of prescription opioid medications in appropriately treating chronic, intractable, pain; or acute pain resulting from curable, short-term medical conditions; and affirm the work of the medical community to create established medical guidelines supporting people living with pain; and call all dioceses and parishes in The Episcopal Church to partner with the medical community and health nonprofit organizations to understand the realities, risks, and barriers to access to care and effective treatments and cures for people living with chronic conditions and otherwise untreated or undertreated pain; and be it further
Resolved, that the Church recognize that issues of substance use disorders, access to diagnosis and effective treatment, and lack of appropriate treatment for untreated or undertreated pain affect all communities, but especially those marginalized in poverty, racial, gender, and ethnic discrimination, persons with disabilities, and other minority communities; and be it further
Resolved, that congregations be urged to include in the Prayers of the People intercessions for patients, families, and communities affected by substance use disorders and also by untreated and undertreated pain and chronic diseases; and be it further
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention to authorize the Presiding Officers to create a task force to assist in the curation and creation of resources for education, prevention, pastoral care, recovery, advocacy, and partnering with community organizations to be use by dioceses and parishes for the purpose of responding to the opioid epidemic and substance use disorders; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance to consider a budget allocation of $30,000 for the implementation of this resolution; and be it further
Resolved, That the membership of this task force will be appointed by the Presiding Officers and consist of no fewer than 8 nor more than 14 members; and that the task force be made up of bishops, priests, deacons, and laity; and be it further
Resolved, That the task force will complete this work within two years.
I’m writing this edition of the blog on Veteran’s Day. Most of you know that I am the Residence Director of a men’s dorm at Hillsdale College and while I am working in the quiet of my apartment, the guys in the lobby are watching Band of Brothers and will later put on All Quiet on the Western Front. As a history buff, I have watched these movies many times yet, as I can’t help but hear some of the dialogue coming from the other room and visualize the loss of life that is inevitable in war, I am grieved to think of all those who have lost their lives in their own battles with drug abuse. This is a war of a different sort, a private and almost invisible struggle but just as deadly. We must work together to protect those fighting addiction so that more lives can be saved.
Let us pray –
God of mercy, we bless you in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who ministered to all who came to Him. Give your strength to our Brothers and Sisters, your children, who are bound by the chains of addiction. Enfold them in your love and restore to each of them the freedom, healing and peace that only You can provide. Look with compassion on all those who have lost their health and freedom. Strengthen them in the work of recovery and help them to find treatment to resist the bodily craving and emotional temptation of addiction. To those who care, work or advocate for them, grant patient understanding, wisdom and a love that perseveres. Amen.
(from an Order of Worship from “Join the Voices for Recovery”)
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council