The United Church of Christ Saturday became the latest faith community to address the country’s growing opioid crisis.
Delegates to the denomination’s biennial General Synod in Milwaukee called on its local churches and conferences to recognize opioid addiction as a “health epidemic” and to partner with corporations, governments, and health care providers to find ways to address behaviors that can lead to addiction.
In bringing the resolution to the Synod plenary, Katie McCloskey, director of social responsibility for United Church Funds, acknowledged that opioids can help treat chronic conditions, sharing the story of her own father’s recent illness and his ability to manage his pain through the proper use of opioids.
McCloskey also acknowledged the long history of drug abuse in America and the United Church of Christ’s continued support for treatment and care for addicts, their families and the communities in which they live. But she contended that this crisis is different. “This opioid epidemic was born of multi-million-dollar corporations” using their influence with regulators to expand the prescribed uses of these drugs and using their influence with those who prescribe opioids.
Through the resolution, the General Synod asks churches to “use all manner of activism” to hold pharmaceutical companies, distributors, regulators, and health care providers accountable if they are “irresponsible” in contributing to addiction. The Synod also calls on Congress and others to increase funding for treatment of addicts, and for more “public discourse” to reduce the stigma surrounding persons who seek help.
Tim Kershner, celebrating his 14th Synod as a newsroom volunteer, is from Duncanville, Pa.