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Rural parish responds to opioid crisis


Since 2007, I have been the parish nurse serving Immaculate Conception parish in New Lebanon and its mission, St. Joseph's in Stephentown. I applaud St. Joseph's/St. Michael's/Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Amsterdam for addressing the opioid addiction crisis by praying to St. Michael the Archangel.

In my parish, we are also realizing the urgency of this public health threat. Other faith communities might consider some of our ideas as we all look for ways to help those who are afflicted with addictions.

Our parish health ministry has been concerned about the need to take some action because, anecdotally, we know that the addiction problem is increasing in severity and frequency here in our rural communities.

Immaculate Conception/St. Joseph's parish is located between two counties in the very rural hill towns of far eastern New York State, bordering the state of Massachusetts and nestled in the valleys along the Taconic mountain range. Parishioners come from as far away as the towns of Petersburg, Canaan and East Nassau; some live in Hancock, Mass.

Here in the hill towns, as opposed to more densely-populated cities and suburbs, some of the contributing factors for drug addiction and overdose deaths can include the lack of local treatment services such as mental health care, addictions counseling, social support and detoxification facilities.

Emergency medical services and rescue teams often depend on volunteer personnel who need to be summoned from home or work to answer a call. The remote location of homes may lend greater privacy for persons engaging in illegal activities.

The rural cultures of these communities present a variety of challenges in addressing the kinds of help that we, as a faith community, can offer.

In addition to prayer, we decided to provide educational opportunities for the community. Joseph Filippone of Project Safepoint, who is authorized by New York State to teach these classes, brought a program on opioids to Immaculate Conception in New Lebanon and will present again in Stephentown next month.

The session emphasized two key points: recognizing the signs of opioid overdose and administering naloxone (Narcan), a lifesaving drug in the event of opioid overdose. Because the program was designed especially for lay responders, some of whom may have concerns about family members or friends, a naloxone kit for emergency use was given to those who requested one. (For information, contact Mr. Filippone at 518-449-3581 or josephf@ccalbany.org.)

Another health ministry-sponsored event will be held Oct. 22 at Immaculate Conception parish: Sheriff David Bartlett of the Columbia County Sheriff's Department has offered to provide a drug take-back session for people in the community at large.

Prescription drugs that are no longer being used or that are out of date can be disposed of safely during the drop-off hours. The take-back programs are administered throughout the area by local law enforcement agencies.

As a parish nurse, I have learned that, through education, we can help people make better life choices. By safely disposing of unused drugs, we are proactively taking a stand for improved community health. By giving family members the knowledge and skill to administer naloxone, we can empower those persons to respond with hope in an overdose emergency.

How wonderful to know that you have been able to keep a loved one alive! This may be the chance he or she needs to begin the long journey back toward becoming whole again in body, mind and spirit.

Each faith community has a different set of strengths and skills to call upon for its particular communal needs. The Holy Spirit, working through us individually and collectively, helps us discern what we can do most effectively. It seems that we do our best when we consciously try to remain open to the possibilities that the Spirit lays before us.

(Ms. Linton can be reached at 518-733-0469 or mlinton@taconic.net.)




 

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