COLUMBUS — Drug Free Action Alliance announced Thursday a new initiative to aid religious organizations in substance abuse prevention and treatment efforts in their communities.
“As we are all so painfully aware, eight people die each day in Ohio from drug overdoses and there is a surge of drug overdoses daily that keeps first responders all too busy,” said Marcie Seidel, executive director of the Drug Free Action Alliance. “Addiction is a disorder that cripples lives and strains families.”
Citing the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Seidel said 20.2 million adults live with substance use disorders in the U.S. and that by 2020, mental and substance use disorders will exceed physical disease as a major cause of disability.
“Churches can connect those suffering from substance use disorders to the treatment professionals and other resources that they need for healing,” Seidel said. “They can wrap their arms around an individual, hold them close and show them the way.”
Later, Seidel said the initiative would engage religious organizations, giving them the resources and professional connections they need to support those currently suffering from addiction as well as to protect their congregants, their community and their community’s children from getting involved in substance abuse.
As part of the announcement, DFAA praised the efforts of religious organizations like Kairos Prison Ministry International, which works with those suffering from the disease of addiction, and shared the story of those who suffer, like Sheila Raye Charles, a woman recovered from addiction herself.
Susan Dick, a Kairos volunteer, said there are 50,000 inmates in more than 30 prisons in Ohio alone. She said 50 percent of those incarcerated will return to society, commit another crime and return to prison while those who participate in Kairos have a recidivism rate of less than 12 percent.
“The world tells them that they deserve to be locked up, maybe forever … but God tells them that there’s forgiveness and redemption in Christ,” Dick said. “The world tells them that they are hated, despised and unwanted, but God tells them that they are his beloved children, adopted into his family.”
“Lives are being redeemed and transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit working through Kairos in one of the darkest places – prisons,” said Dick.
Sheila Raye Charles, daughter of musician Ray Charles, spoke to the power of love and faith in the lives of those struggling with addiction.
“I tried everything in the 23-year crack cocaine addiction that I walked in … from treatment to counseling to psychiatrists and psychologists,” Charles said. “It wasn’t until I was presented the message of love and hope, the empowerment through Jesus Christ that my life was able to change.”
Charles said that those of faith could and should work to prevent substance abuse and heal those who suffer from addiction.
“If we do not get to these young people, these children, and prevent them from walking down the path of destruction through a self-inflicted disease called addiction, it’s going to be genocide,” Charles said. “And we have a reasonable responsibility as a believer … to tell anyone who will listen that there is hope through Jesus Christ.”
Drug Free Action Alliance is a certified prevention agency leading the way in promoting healthy lives through the prevention of substance abuse and fostering mental health wellness for 30 years. DFAA is nationally recognized for building networks that empower communities to create safe and healthy environments. For more information, visit www.DrugFreeActionAlliance.org.
Kairos Prison Ministry International is a Christian faith-based ministry that addresses the spiritual needs of incarcerated men, women, youth and their families. By sharing the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, Kairos hopes to change hearts, transform lives and impact the world.
Kairos also offers EMBARK and Harbor on the Hill in the Columbus area to those who leave prison to provide support as the ex-offenders are re-introduced into the community and looking for housing and jobs often while recovering from an addiction.