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Keeping Faith: Bringing Hope and Healing in the Midst of the Opioid Crisis

Surgeon General Adams says participation by the faith-based community is critical in national efforts to prevent and treat opioid misuse.


That’s the number of Americans the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates we lost to opioids and other drug overdoses in 2017.

As your Surgeon General, I am tasked with helping to educate, equip and engage Americans in every community, along with our local, state and federal governments and our private-sector partners to promote better health and to respond to our nation’s public health challenges. One of the biggest public health challenges of our time is the opioid addiction crisis ravaging our communities.

Everywhere I go, I affirm my deeply held conviction that we are stronger together, that we can — and must — achieve “Better health through better partnerships.”  

The opioid crisis is an all-hands-on-deck emergency, so we need to harness the powerful resources of everyone who has a stake in health, including governments, healthcare providers, law enforcement, businesses, community organizations and philanthropies. Here, I’ll talk about the special talents and calling of the faith community.  

Faith organizations, service providers and communities are motivated by a calling to serve their neighbors. The participation of faith communities in the nationwide fight against drug abuse is critical to preventing and treating opioid misuse—and to supporting individuals in long-term recovery.  Faith partners have demonstrated a culture of compassion for individuals struggling with addiction and have helped countless Americans overcome their drug dependence. 

In support of the service of faith and community partners, HHS is working to remove barriers to care. Just last month, the HHS Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives (The Partnership Center) reached out to key stakeholders around the nation to affirm that states may use State Opioid Response (SOR) grant funds to support substance use disorder services by faith organizations.

Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has supported this outreach with a Frequently Asked Questions addendum that makes it clear that states are allowed to use a portion of their funds through indirect funding or voucher programs to support the work of the faith community in addressing substance use disorders.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, M.D. visited the Opioid Memorial Display on the National Ellipse in April, 2018.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, M.D. visited the Opioid Memorial Display on the National Ellipse in April 2018.

This guidance can enhance client choice and increase program participation by a variety of groups, including faith partners. Likewise, these same social service providers can choose to enhance their substance abuse services through the state’s portion of the new SOR grants. This freedom to select the service provider that’s best for the client is a win-win-win—for the state, for faith providers, and for patients and their families.

The Trump administration values the service of faith and social service providers. The restorative work being performed in communities across the nation is key to the treatment, recovery and prevention processes, as they:

  • Provide and encourage access to treatment, including medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
  • Offer recovery services, such as recovery housing, employment readiness, recovery coaching, and workforce development.
  • Promote peer certification programs.
  • Employ critical strategies, such as administering naloxone and promoting prevention of substance use by adults and youth.

In order for us to tackle this crisis, we need partnerships and collaborations. By working together, including with faith-based organizations, we can overcome this opioid crisis and create a brighter future.


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