Maryland church pursues hope, forgiveness amid opioid epidemic

Mount Airy, Maryland

After someone overdosed in the parking lot of the New Beginning Nazarene Church in Mount Airy, Maryland, church leaders decided something needed to be done. It wasn’t the first time an incident like this had happened, but the church is working to make sure it was the last.

The congregation hosted an overdose response training led by the Frederick County Behavioral Health Services and the Listen Love Pray Foundation to teach people about the opioid crisis and train them to potentially save overdose victims’ lives.

“The opioid crisis can feel distant, even to members of the church’s congregation,” New Beginnings Lead Pastor Brian Remsch told The Frederick News-Post. “The church has to be a place where we welcome people and take care of people where they are.”

The LLP Foundation and the church leadership initially planned the training for only a few congregants and community members. As they began preparing for the event, both entities agreed that since this is a community-wide issue, they should try to encourage everyone they could to come out, learn, and participate.

“We invited area recovery houses and other organizations that help with those dealing with addiction, especially opioid addiction,” Remsch said. “We developed a social media campaign to get word out into the community as well.”

On the night of the event, nearly 40 people showed up to the training.

“There were area pastors, healthcare professionals, New Beginning congregants, people from LLP, and even individuals from the community who just heard about the event,” Remsch said.

The training lasted about an hour, and the county health department offered participants two emergency doses of Naloxone, a life-saving drug that blocks opioid receptors and reverses the effects of an overdose.

“Naloxone isn’t going to fix the opioid crisis,” said Jay Hessler, Frederick County Health Department’s local addiction authority coordinator. “It’s keeping people alive while they work through that process.”

While there were fewer non-fatal overdoses in Frederick County last year than in previous years, there were 52 fatal overdoses in 2018, a slight increase from 2017’s 51 fatal overdoses.

For LLP Foundation Executive Director Lucinda Nelson, those statistics are personal. Her son previously had a substance abuse disorder.

“Addiction is a family disease, and we all have a part to play,” Nelson said. “There’s help, and there’s hope. There’s community, and there’s support.”

Remsch said the event was a success, and the church plans to continue its partnership with these organizations to continue fighting the epidemic.

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