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Churches want to help with opioid crisis

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 January 2017 at 12:04 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: Russ Peters, pastor of the Alabama Full Gospel Fellowship Church in Shelby, speaks during Friday’s Legislative Luncheon at Tillman’s Village Inn.

GAINES – As the community, state and country grapple with how to respond to an opioid crisis resulting in numerous overdose deaths, local churches in Orleans County are willing to help.

Russ Peters, pastor of the Alabama Full Gospel Fellowship in Shelby, said he has led several funeral services for people who have suffered fatal overdoses.

Drug addictions are plaguing the community, Peters said during Friday’s Legislative Luncheon attended by about 100 people. That event at the Village Inn was organized by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce and offered a forum to discuss issues.

Peters said several church leaders have formed Pastors Aligned for Community Transformation (PACT). Last week, PACT had prayer sessions at 6 p.m. from Monday through Friday at different churches. The opioid crisis is among the leading concerns for churches, Peters said.

PACT last year led discussions about addictions, the opioid crisis and overcoming barriers that keep people in poverty. Debbie Davis is founder of the faith-based “One Voice,” a non-profit organization that works with people fighting addictions in West Virginia. She met with the PACT leaders and the community last June to discuss how churches in her community reached out to people struggling with addictions and feelings of hopelessness.

Sheriff Randy Bower said the Sheriff’s Office has strengthened a partnership with 77 churches in the county.

“We will be reaching out,” Bower said during the Legislative Luncheon.

The Sheriff’s Office last year started a program in the county jail to help people with addictions.

“It’s near and dear to my heart,” Bower said. “We want to help these people.”

Bower said assisting people with addictions will reduce crimes, because many larcenies and burglaries are committed by people trying to fuel drug cravings.

Bower noted the governor’s budget includes $200 million more in the fight against opioid addictions.

The state earlier this month announced it would fund a methadone clinic in Batavia, open to people in Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming counties, helping them to fight opioid addictions.

“It’s a very serious issue,” State Assemblyman Steve Hawley said. “It touches every strata.”

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