Faith-based roundtable discussion held on drugs

The Bell County League of Women Voters (LWV) hosted a Round Table discussion Thursday evening on the faith-based response to the local drug issues.

Romell Johnson of the LWV gave a moving introduction to the issues and to the speakers. David King, the pastor of Shiloh Church, and Hazel Spurlock of Stand in the Gap both spoke about the programs they offer to those in trouble with drugs.

Shiloh Church uses a 12-week program called Freedom Recovery. It is small-group, either male or female, for those in recovery.

“This program is very effective in keeping people off drugs,” Jeannie Allen, the leader of the female small group, “Those in the small group form long-lasting relationships with each other and with God.”

King says that real change occurs in these small groups.

King and Allen are both also involved in Crater of Hope, which is now a 501(3) C organization.

Crater of Hope provides an environment conducive to helping recovering addicts feel free from judgement to share stories and emotions surrounding their addiction. Crater of Hope helps people to find jobs and provides help in getting people back into school.

Spurlock, founder of Stand in the Gap, told the history of the organization and what they are doing locally to stop the drug problem.

“We are interested in changing legislation on drugs to help the problem,” Spurlock said. “For instance, making Sudafed a prescribed drug would help stop the manufacture of illegal drugs.”

They are also firmly against most medically assisted therapies for drug rehabilitation as those drugs are often just as bad, if not worse, than the one they were addicted to in the first place. Stand in the Gap has a jail ministry and a support group using the START program.

START stands for support, transition, recovery and training. Spurlock stated that drugs don’t stop at state lines and that they would like to partner with others to combine resources. One particular area is drug prevention education in the schools.

Pamela Hammons, coordinator for Stand in the Gap, said that the average age of beginning drugs is 11 in our area. She is meeting with school officials and exploring ways of reaching school age children with drug and tobacco prevention education.

Several people in attendance spoke out, including Eric Martin, director of Christian Cooperative Ministries. He reiterated that the solution to the drug issue is in relationship building. He has personally driven people to rehab and then followed up to see how they are doing both during and after treatment.

Aelred Dean, the priest at St. Mary’s, stated that he had attended a conference in Huntington, W.Va. on the opioid epidemic and said that their solution is in bringing the entire community together, from law enforcement to churches to social service agencies to politicians.

They established a task force with members from all the interested parties that collaborated on a multi-pronged effort to stop drug problem in that community. He is interested in having that kind of collaboration in Bell County.

Debbie Hunter is the leader of Nar-Anon here in Bell County, and she is a firm advocate for the 12-step programs. Many local churches have NA and AA meetings several times a week. The date and time of those meetings is on the NA website.

Crater of Hope is about to launch a website that will have the dates and places of recovery meetings, places to go to rehab and other resources. Collaboration and relationship building, both with each other and God, and prayer will go a long way to helping the drug problem in our area was the main theme of the meeting.

Before closing the meeting, it was decided by the League of Women Voters to send out email notifications and newspaper community calendar reminders when the next meeting will take place. The meeting is open and the community is encouraged to attend.