A Public Health Emergency: The Opioid Crisis & Our Response

The Church has an opportunity to repent and respond with compassion.

This past year, opioids claimed 59,000 lives in the United States. This number is staggering when we consider those who avoided overdose. Add to this number the impact on families and loved ones and the number grows exponentially.

Yesterday, President Trump moved to declare this opioid crisis a “public health emergency” with the hope of aiding communities across the United States in their fight. I am thankful.

Virtually unknown a generation ago, many can point to specific people in our own communities who have been impacted by opioid addiction. We’ve seen the loss and felt the pain of these substances and know their capacity to destroy lives and families.

While I had heard of the opioid crisis, our engagement with its severity came this past September at the Rural Matters Conference in Texas. In our effort to equip pastors, elders, and ministry leaders to address their specific cultural needs, the Billy Graham Center founded the Rural Matters Institute to aid churches facing the unique challenges of rural ministry. At our inaugural conference, I was struck by the passion from several of these leaders regarding the need for help in facing this new drug epidemic.

What Is the Opioid Crisis?

An opioid is a class of drug that includes illegal substances such as heroin as well as legally prescribed medications, including oxycodone, morphine, and fentanyl. These drugs are highly addictive and were used as pain management tools extensively in the 1990s, leading to rampant over-prescription.In the first decade of the twenty-first century, opioid sales and death rates have grown in near union to the point that 2010 marked a four-fold increase from 1999 levels.

In a recent testimony before the House Committee on Energy ...

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