“It’s a healing ministry. Jesus went around healing people and proclaiming the good news,” says Jim Cabush, the family pastor at Valley Grace Church, a Charis Fellowship congregation in Hagerstown, Md. (Daniel Pritchett, pastor). Jim is referring to the free Narcan training that was held at Valley Grace just a few weeks ago.
Narcan (naloxone) is classified as an opioid antagonist and is an accessible way for anyone to help reverse the effects of a drug overdose. It is administered through the patient’s nose as a nasal spray. The product is widely available in pharmacies across the United States and sometimes can be provided by local health departments.
With a population of right around 40,000 the city of Hagerstown1, like many cities in the United States, is no stranger to the overarching opioid and heroin epidemic that the county has been facing for several years. In 2017, it was reported that the number of opioid-related deaths was 32.2 deaths per 100,000 in Maryland, which is two times greater than the national rate.2
Opioid and heroin use is becoming more prevalent in smaller cities and does not only affect the homeless and criminal offense population, as once previously thought but affects the very people who surround us in our daily lives.
“It affects everybody,” says Jim, “everyone is affected by the problem, specifically the use of prescription drugs that are in our own medicine cabinets.”
Even members of Valley Grace have been touched by drug use.
“Our church has been touched by people who have experienced overdoses,” says Peggy Jones, a member of Valley Grace who attended the training, “I think if you talk to anybody in Hagerstown, you would find out that they either know someone or are related to someone who has had something like this happen to them.”
As Valley Grace saw the need for this type of training in Hagerstown, they reached out to their department of health, requesting help with hosting a free Narcan training for the community at the church.
“The health departments are begging churches to do this,” says Jim, “Our instructor for the training told us that people who are on heroin will not go to a health center or hospital, but they will go into a church. They think if they walk into a hospital or health center for help, people will know they are on drugs.”
The training, of course, is not just for those who are using but for the affected family members who have loved ones who are on drugs.
“You’re not going to get street people coming in, you’re going to get someone whose son or daughter overdosed one time and now they want to be prepared,” says Jim.
The training was held on a Thursday night at Valley Grace with nine people in attendance, half of which were community members. The instructor had expressed that she assisted with 10 overdoses earlier that week and one on the way to the training.
Valley Grace plans on holding another training sometime during the winter when school is in session. They hope to partner with a local school to help get the word out to parents and work with the department of health to advertise on a bigger scale to the city of Hagerstown.
“As Christians, it is our responsibility, we are supposed to care,” says Peggy.
“It says to the community that we care,” says Jim, “Now people know there is a place where they can go and talk, a place that cares and can provide hope.”
[Connect:] How can your congregation be proactive in the opioid crisis? Pray about contacting your department of health for assistance with hosting a Narcan training at your church. Send Jim an encouraging note here.
1 U.S. Census Bureau
2 National Institute on Drug Abuse