Church leaders gather to fight drug problem
STANFORD – The drug epidemic isn’t going anywhere and is only getting worse – that’s why church leaders from across Lincoln County gathered Tuesday to formulate a plan of action.
“We had six overdoses recently that our police and firemen brought back to life,” said Stanford Mayor Eddie Carter. “Week before last we chased a couple high on drugs going south on U.S. 27 and the police and sheriff’s office were able to get them stopped. But he was on the wrong side of the road, he could’ve killed people.”
Carter said in the last few months there have been two drug-related suicides in Stanford, as well. He also noted there were 10 overdoses within 36 hours in Jessamine County recently.
“It just seems like it’s just getting worse. As a community, as a government, we need to try to do something,” he said. “There’s no easy answers, we all know that. We’re here to get together to talk about this with these ministers in our community.”
After introductions, Gary Chidester, a Danville resident and member of the Hope Network. The Hope Network is a coalition of churches and leaders from many surrounding counties who are determined to fight the ongoing drug problem head-on.
“I stand before you a man who has dealt with addiction through my youngest daughter,” Chidester said. “She took us to hell and back three or four different times with her addictions. The issue that we’re dealing with today, there are people dying every day with no hope. At the foundation of this problem, it is a lack of hope. If that doesn’t call every Christian out of their church to the streets, I don’t know what will.”
Chidester said drug addiction has touched the lives of many, if not most, in the room Tuesday and most of the lives out in the communities and it is time for churches to tear down their walls and work together to end the problem.
“I believe God’s church has no walls,” he said. “It’s not about whether your doctor got you hooked on it. It’s not whether you saw your mom and dad doing it. We need to be the ones who stand in the gap and say ‘there is hope and his name is Jesus.’
Chidester talked to Lincoln County leaders in attendance about the Hope Network, formerly known as Hope Over Heroin, and invited the churches to join the fight against the drug epidemic.
“In asking the question whether there was anything we can do as churches, we realized that no one church can do it all. We asked pastors to come together and leave the last name off their churches,” he said.
Chidester said one of three main goals for the Hope Network that Lincoln County could also benefit from – mentoring “at risk” children in schools;
“It is as simple as spending an hour a week with a child,” he said. “I don’t believe there’s a guidance counselor in Lincoln County who is going to say – if you have an adult who is willing to come in and dedicate an hour of time to somebody who is at risk – ‘we’re not willing to open our door to them.’”
Lincoln County Superintendent Mike Rowe was in attendance Tuesday and said the schools would appreciate anyone willing to mentor children identified as “at risk” within the district.
Leaders discussed getting specific training to make sure religious freedom laws are not violated. Rowe said he would bring the school board attorney to the next meeting so he could brief the group on those laws.
Other goals include training more people to teach the Celebrate Recovery program, as well as rotating the Celebrate Recovery program across churches in the area and at non-religious locations. Other goals include helping misdemeanor offenders with finding work after being released from jail.
“We feed people before we do Celebrate Recovery,” he said. “We have to make sure these people have something in their belly. For some of the people who are coming to celebrate recovery, it’s the best meal they eat all week.”
Chidester said some local churches help by providing meals for those meetings and while many will only come for the meal – he said you would be surprised how many end up staying behind to talk about their battle with addiction.
“if we can help one, then isn’t it worth it?” he asked.
Tuesday’s meeting was one of several meetings that have been held in Lincoln County over the last few years to talk about the drug problem and Jailer Rob Wilson said he’s tired of “meeting just to meet.” He said it’s time to hit the streets and start taking action.
The group plans to meet again next week to further develop a plan of action. All in attendance agreed to move things along as quickly as possible.
Those in attendance of Tuesday’s meeting included representatives from: Hilltop House of Praise; Willow Grove Baptist Church; Stanford Presbyterian; First Priority Heritage; Hebron Lakeside Church; West Chapel Baptist Church; Pleasant View Baptist Church; Lincoln County Baptist Association; Lincoln County Regional Jail and women’s jail ministry; Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office; Stanford Police Department; Stanford Fire Department; Lancaster First Assembly; Bluegrass Clinic; Lincoln County School District; By Grace Women’s Home; Celebrate Recovery. Some people represented multiple agencies and we apologize if anyone in attendance was not recognized in this list.
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