Beechland Baptist Church in Louisville had a busy summer, planning its first Addiction Summit to raise awareness of substance use disorder in the local community, counteract the stigma of addiction, and educate the public about the nationwide opioid epidemic.
“The idea behind the event was, you can’t force someone into recovery, but you can build a support system to love the addict through it,” said Tory Hibbs, a small groups leader with Beechland who proved instrumental in planning the event. “We uncovered a lot of need.”
Hosted by Transformations Class, Beechland Baptist’s 2018 Addiction Summit was held on July 21. The “judgment-free” event included guest speakers like John Boel from WAVE 3 News, as well as live music, raffles and prizes, and break-out workshops. These workshops included:
- Learning about Casey’s Law, the Kentucky law that allows members of the public to petition the court if they have a loved one in addiction who is a harm to himself or to others. Assistant Jefferson County Attorney Claudia Smith was present to answer questions.
- “Reaching out with Compassion, Grace, and Truth” featuring Dr. Eric Johnson, was all about helping people approach addiction from a place of compassion and grace.
- “Hope in Prevention,” with Jean Schumm, President of OperationParent, offered contemporary addiction prevention tips to parents of children and teens.
- “Neurobiology of the Addicted Brain” featured addiction specialist Dr. Mike Christopher Kalfas describing the neurobiology of the addicted brain.
“We reached out to everybody,” Hibbs said. “Initially, we had to raise funds because we were thinking that the stigma of addiction might make this hard to sell, but as the word got out, donations started pouring in.”
Hibbs estimated that there were about 115 paying attendees at the 2018 Addiction Summit, a figure that far exceeded Beechland Baptist’s expectations. Then again, addiction in Kentucky is a problem that has gone beyond questions of stigma: between 2012 and 2015, 843 overdose deaths were reported in Jefferson County, and the number continues to climb each year.
Churches must be willing to offer help without judgment to those ensnared by opioids and meth, Hibbs said, and events like the 2018 Addiction Summit represent a first step toward breaking the silence and removing the stigma of a problem that can affect any family, regardless of race or creed or social class.
Of course, it’s only the first step: Beechland Baptist is already making plans to host another Addiction Summit in 2019.
“We don’t have a date set, but we’re definitely planning on hosting another one,” Hubbs said. “I feel like we made a big difference. We can’t stop now.”