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A pastoral, proactive approach to opioid crisis

The St. Augustine Record - 11/13/2017

Rev. Felipe J. Estévez

St. Augustine

For as long as I can remember, there have always been drug addicts in need of help, but the scale of the present wave of heroin and opioid abuse is unprecedented. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than six out of 10 drug overdose deaths involve opioids. On average, 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

Opioids are a class of drugs that includes prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin or Vicodin, and illegal substances such as heroin and fentanyl. They have swept through American communities, hurting both rural and urban areas.

On Oct. 26, President Donald Trump declared the U.S. opioid crisis a public health emergency, calling on federal government agencies to focus their resources on finding solutions to the growing problem.

In a speech to participants of a Vatican conference on narcotics last year, Pope Francis noted that there is no "single cause" that leads to drug use, but that the factors are many, and often involve the absence of family, social pressures, propaganda from traffickers and the desire to have new experiences.

This month, I have called together the clergy of the Diocese of St. Augustine to deepen their knowledge and awareness of the opioid crisis in the U.S. in general and in Northeast Florida in particular. They will learn about a pilot program designed to fight the opioid crisis offered by St. Vincent Medical Center in Riverside - one of the first in Jacksonville.

The time is now to act as a community. I commend the Jacksonville City Council for its proactive leadership. We need to work together to educate and inform members of the community to solve the issues of addictions.

We need to reach families and help them recognize opioid addiction in family members, how to avoid enabling them and how to communicate to loved ones about substance addiction.

It's also important to note that it's not just addicts who suffer, it's the whole family.

Let us encourage our brothers and sisters in need to turn to prayer for hope. With the power of prayer and the compassionate embrace of our community, I hope that all those affected by substance abuse will receive the physical, emotional and spiritual care that they need.

Most Rev. Felipe J. Estévez is Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine.

 
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