CHHSM-Sponsored Synod Resolution Aims to Increase Awareness and Heighten Activism about the Opioid Crisis

Each day, in UCC churches across the country, pastors and lay leaders serve their congregations and communities. Often, that service includes helping neighbors and family members deal with the effects of the current opioid crisis.

To help shed additional light on the crisis and paths for treatment and solutions, the UCC Council for Health and Human Service Ministries is sponsoring a Resolution of Witness at this summer’s General Synod, to be held June 21-25 at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, Wis.

The resolution calls for the recognition of opioid addiction as a health epidemic and urges more affordable and accessible addiction treatment. Additionally, the resolution calls on pharmaceutical companies to exercise corporate responsibility in curtailing the availability of opioids in a way that does not cause harm to those who use opioids responsibly for pain management of terminal or chronic illnesses.

“It is important for the UCC to provide a witness of light in this current crisis,” says the Rev. George Graham, CHHSM vice president. “We hope that congregations will find ways to respond by offering support to those affected, including family members, and that they will also raise awareness and serve as advocates for this issue.”

The Centers for Disease Control reports that in 2016, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids was five times higher than it was in 1999. On average, 115 people die every day from opioid overdose.

The resolution cites a RAND Corporation study that shows that while there has been an increase in the number of Medicaid recipients receiving medication to treat opioid addiction, the increase is smaller in poorer counties and in areas with greater numbers of African American and Latinx residents.

“It’s clear from the numbers impacted that more treatment needs to be available, and there also needs to be more evenly-accessible support for treatment by Medicare and Medicaid,” Graham says.

The resolution has four action items:

  • Urging all settings of the UCC to recognize opioid addiction as a health epidemic;
  • Calling on Congress to increase Medicare and Medicaid funding to treat opioid addiction;
  • Recognizing that opioid addiction does not determine a person’s worth, and inviting public discourse on the need for just and equitable treatment to lessen the stigma associated with asking for help;
  • Urging the UCC to use all manner of activism — including shareholder activism of opioid pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors — to hold accountable those who irresponsibly market, distribute, or prescribe opioids or criminalize those who become addicted.

“This resolution was created to put the world on notice that we, as members of the United Church of Christ, follow Christ’s teachings to Love our Neighbor, and one way we do that is through our Synod resolutions that call for compassion, advocacy and support of our neighbors in need,” says Michael J. Readinger, CHHSM president and CEO. “This resolution, like all Synod resolutions, will be brought to life in every way that it is lived into by individuals, local churches, regional associations and conferences, and the national setting of the UCC.”

CHHSM is the Presenting Sponsor the the UCC’s General Synod. Learn more about CHHSM-sponsored events during Synod.

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CHHSM Board and Staff are grieved to learn of the death of our friend and colleague, Greg Watson, who died in October 2022. Greg was vice president of operations for Embrace Living Communities, based in Oak Brook, Ill.Greg was a graduate of CHHSM’s Nollau Leadership Institute, class of 2018-2019, and was consecrated as a Diakonal Minister during our 2019 Annual Gathering in Chicago. In an article about his class in June 2018 — not long after the group’s first retreat — Greg said, “The best part is not only beginning the process of clarifying your calling; but also, understanding and accepting one’s personal strength. Recognition of one’s ‘true' self enables us to serve from a place of wholeness.”Greg also served on the CHHSM Board of Directors, and was a beloved friend and colleague to many in the CHHSM family. Embrace Living stated on its website, “Greg was an outstanding servant leader for 17 years at Embrace Living Communities. He will be greatly missed.”CHHSM sends its prayers and love to Greg’s friends, family, and Embrace Living colleagues. ... See MoreSee Less
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