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New initiative arms local churches with tools to help in opioid epidemic

Posted: 7:49 PM, Jul 13, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-13 23:58:31Z

INDIANAPOLIS — A new initiative aims to arm local churches with the knowledge and tools to help stop the opioid epidemic.

Wendy McEowen admits that in many ways, she was enabling her heroin-addicted son. Then she turned to the group PAL, Parents of Addicted Loved Ones, where she gained understanding and tools to help save his life.

"Whatever I needed to do to keep him alive is what I will do," McEowen said.

The group meets inside Carmel Christian Church — a church that's embraced the call to action to help stop the opioid epidemic.

Pastor Jerry Zehr is part of  a new effort by the Overdose Lifeline to form an interfaith coalition and develop a strategic plan for churches to be a powerful force in the battle against addiction.

"We are trying to be a place, a recovery church, a place where people can come to find a sense of hope and grace and love and that they'll be encouraged rather than judged," Zehr said.

At just their second meeting, members received a hands-on lesson on Naloxone and a free Narcan kit for faith leaders.

"I didn't know anything about Narcan. I'm learning how to use it, and be prepared to use it in any situation," Pastor David Hewitt of King of Glory Lutheran Church said.

Justin Phillips, founder of Overdose Lifeline, says, "We are going to provide them with some tools that they can go back in their faith community and implement and we hope to bring them back together to continue this conversation."

"When you feel powerless, the best thing you can do is do something," Zehr said. 

Zehr is an example of how to do just that. Besides the PAL group, he's teaching his congregation how to encourage hope and healing.

"We think it's important that faith leaders who carry an influence in the community need to be an advocate and speak up for this issue," Zehr said.

McEowen's son is in recovery and doing well. She believes churches are a part of the solution.

"The resources are out there if we can find the people to pass it on, and it's the right people."