Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

1404 East 9th Street | Cleveland, Ohio 44114

Awareness Sunday: The first step to ending the heroin crisis

Cleveland area religious leaders to devote their sermons to opioid awareness

CLEVELAND, Ohio – On Sunday, April 23, over 550 religious leaders, from Protestant to Catholic and Jewish to Baptist, are bringing the topic of heroin to their congregations throughout Northeast Ohio.

In a coordinated effort, these leaders are devoting their sermons to raising awareness about the heroin epidemic gripping Northeast Ohio. Their goal? Destigmatize heroin addiction, point congregation members to resources for help, and give them a simple step they can take right away to combat prescription drug use close to home: They’ll be encouraging members to turn in any unused prescription medications as part of the National Drug Take Back sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration on Saturday, April 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“We hear news stories all the time about the opioid epidemic here and yet we’re not talking to one another about it within our own communities, congregations and homes,” says Father Bob Stec, Pastor of Saint Ambrose Catholic Parish in Brunswick, Ohio. “One of the most difficult struggles for those who have family using or addicted to drugs, especially heroin, is silence. We saw an opportunity to start a grassroots effort to get people talking about heroin use. Church is probably the last place people might expect to hear about heroin, but it shouldn’t be. The more we talk about it with one another – whether at church, in the workplace or wherever else people gather – the more we’ll be able to help people get the treatment they need.”

“Part of the problem is that people don’t know where to start,” explains Father Bob. To help them find resources, Father Bob and other concerned community members, launched the website GreaterThanHeroin.com in August 2016. They plan to coordinate outreach efforts regularly through a network of interfaith leaders to spread the word about how to combat opioid drug use, including taking back any unused prescription drugs on April 29.

For Father Bob, stemming the use of opioid addiction has become a personal mission. Around this time last year, over a three-week period he conducted the funerals of six people connected with his parish who’d overdosed on heroin.

“There’s no one type when it comes who’s falling victim,” believes Father Bob. “It affects everyone from the father of four to the clean-cut teenager. As a member of the clergy, we’re on the front lines of this epidemic so we’re taking action where we can by letting people know that they can get help.”

About Greater Than Heroin

Greater Than Heroin is a nonprofit website dedicated to connecting Ohio residents with information on overcoming heroin use, along with destigmatizing drug addiction. Started in 2016 by a group of concerned clergy members, the nondenominational site includes treatment and resource options by county, plus important facts about heroin use.

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