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West Virginia’s bishop asks churches to prepare for opioid overdoses

West Virginia’s bishop asks churches to prepare for opioid overdoses

Last year, more than 880 people died in West Virginia because of opioid overdoses.

The Rt. Reverend W. Michie Klusmeyer, bishop of West Virginia, asked Episcopal parishes in the diocese to be ready to help in a direct way – by making available and training to use a drug that counteracts overdoses. From the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Klusmeyer made the request last weekend at the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia’s annual convention in Charleston… [asking] Episcopal congregations to have at least one person trained in naloxone administration and to have a kit available in the church building. Klusmeyer said his request isn’t a mandate, but an encouragement.

Klusmeyer, who is also president of the West Virginia Council of Churches, says the invitation is in response to the surrounding community, but also to congregations:

Klusmeyer said the idea is to have naloxone available for members of the surrounding neighborhood who might overdose, but he’s also aware that church members are not exempt from substance abuse problems.

“It’s a human problem, and West Virginia is significantly hard hit,” Klusmeyer said. It’s the role of the church to take a stand and help, he said.

West Virginia Episcopalians aren’t the first to adopt this. From the Episcopal News Service:

Donna Barten, 56, a recently retired research neuroscientist on the outreach committee of Christ Church Cathedral in Springfield in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts… organized a Narcan training event at her church in September. Narcan is the brand name for a nasal-spray variety of naloxone, which revives people after they’ve stopped breathing from an opioid overdose. It’s simple and safe to administer, she said. One of Barten’s goals is to enable most of the churches in her diocese, as well as the area’s synagogues and mosques, to have Narcan and know how to use it.

“I’d like us to be a safe place where people can go for help,” Barten said. “Where is the hand of Jesus these days? They’re treated like lepers. This is one way that we can help.”

And churches farther north, in New York and Canada, are also responding to the crisis:

In the Canadian Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, the Rev. Monique Stone, rector of the three-point Parish of Huntley, organized a naloxone workshop at St. Thomas the Apostle Anglican Church in Ottawa in February for 20 clergy, including diocesan Bishop John Chapman.

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Eggertsville, in Buffalo, New York, hosted a free Narcan/naloxone training in April. Offered by the Erie County Department of Health, the session leader was a registered nurse.

Photo from EMS.gov

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