Faith leaders learn to fight addiction in their flocks


SAVANNAH, AGa., – (WSAV) Clergy leaders are learning the tools to help people fight addiction through a series of forums that wrapped up in Savannah. The Congregation Mickve Israel is the backdrop for the final for 2019. The gathers are sponsored by the Interfaith and Addiction Recovery Coalition, a group that came together in the wake of the growing opioid epidemic.

The forums plug priests, pastors, rabbis, and Imam’s into the network of addiction recovery resources available to people no matter their level of insurance coverage. Rabbi Robert Haas says the veil is being pulled off this problem in the faith community, ” It goes beyond religion, I mean, I know in Judaism keeping these issues a secret has been part of our way for a very long time and in recent years we are finally getting over the stigma… The issues people face with addiction have nothing to do with who you are. Sometimes it’s luck. Sometimes it’s situational. But we come together and say, you know what, we have to learn about the networks that help people. We have to go out of our way to test people and see what the signs are,” Hass said.

Faith leaders learn where to tell their faithful to find help if addiction creeps into congregations. Janis Ellington is a clinical outreach coordinator with Summit Behavioral Healthcare. Ellington says she’s attended all three forums held in 2019 and the final gathering on Thursday is the best turnout yet, “It grows with each one that we host we have a bigger and bigger turnout. So I feel like the faith community is catching on and really interested in what we are offering,” Ellington said.

The growth can be partly attributed to participation surveys filled out at the end, where attendees share what works and what doesn’t. The forums include a panel of speakers with first-hand experience with tackling addiction and getting people onto the road to recovery. Work is beginning on the 2020 schedule of free forums for faith leaders. The list of dates is expected to be released in January. They are free to faith leaders, who can earn continuing education credits with their attendance.

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