New Day Baptist Church Pastor Mike Pearl talks with youth during a school supply giveaway. Pearl says the church has a duty to reach out and try to get kids to steer clear of drug abuse. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: Contributed
Photo: Contributed

Butler County experts feel churches can help in war on drugs

Drug overdoses were the leading cause of deaths in 2016 in Butler County, according to Butler County Coroner Dr. Lisa Mannix.. She said that it is the third year in a row that drug overdoses claimed the top spot.

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Kristina Latta-Landefeld, coalition coordinator for the Greater Hamilton Drug-Free Coalition, told the Journal-News that the effort to combat the issue is getting stronger, and churches can help in the fight.

“It is really fascinating because we know that there is a system out there that works really well,” she said. “People in the field – theologists, psychologists – have tried to be able to link a system like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) that does have a religious component to it, in order to determine what are the positive outcomes and how can that approach be used by churches …”

Latta-Landefeld added that “any type of faith in a higher being or something similar” can be an answer for some but not all.

“But getting the churches involved speaks to a cultural approach that is important. People in Butler County are very involved in their churches,” she said. “It is just a part of looking for a solution just like getting health care, schools and law enforcement involved. We have to have a multi-faceted approach to dealing with this.”

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Kristy Duritsch of the Coalition for a Healthy Middletown said churches can pool resources and expertise within their congregations and focus on the community in which they live in or even a mile radius around their church. She feels this can help address the problem.

“I definitely think they can have an impact - but more so on the prevention end of things,” Duritsch said. “For those in need of help, they can provide resources and even pay for programs for folks addicted. For those recovering they can provide a safe, supportive environment …”

She added that the problems of the world are now overwhelming, so starting small with the intention and focus aimed at the people they know in the community can make an impact.

“Reaching the kids and families to help create a community who cares — the simplest things can make a big impact,” Duritsch said. “For example, Jeri Lewis of Kingswell Ministries has adopted Sherman park to provide daily lunches and activities for the kids that come there.”

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Developing relationships and being consistent is key in addressing violence and drugs, according to Duritsch.

“When there is trust, you can teach them a better way to react to resolve conflict, cope with disappointments, stress and dream for a better future and thus they are less likely to turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope or escape,” she said.

James E. Wynn III is the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church. He said pastors around the city “have been meeting on regular basis,” to discuss the drug issue and senseless violence.

“We are trying to come up with a way to address these issues,” Wynn said.

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New Day Baptist Church Pastor Mike Pearl has already been keeping his congregation busy doing outreach that extends all-year. His church helps feed the hungry and doles out school supplies to the needy.

He figures the best approach is “to stay consistent addressing the problem while not letting any of the youth fall through the cracks.”

Pastor Dave Wess from New Life Community Church agrees that churches are ready and able “to keep spreading God’s word,” while also adding some tough love from the pulpit.