The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is encouraging faith-based groups to tackle the addiction crisis.
Monty Burks, director of faith based initiatives with TDMHSAS, has been traveling the state to speak to congregations about their role in fighting the opioid epidemic.
Burks said they started holding meetings with faith-based groups in 2015. So far, there have been 76 meetings in 71 of Tennessee’s 95 counties.
The purpose is to build a network of faith-based groups across the state that can help provide support and resources to those in recovery.
“We want to identify churches that are open to sharing the recovery message in their community and linking arms with other counties and even sometimes other belief systems,” Burks said.
Tuesday night Burks spoke to a crowd of people at True Life Church in Jefferson County at an event hosted by Rescue 180, which is Jefferson County’s Substance Abuse Coalition.
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Burks has been in recovery for more than 17 years, and he has seen the role faith can play in a person’s path to getting clean.
“People hit rock bottom, and sometimes when they hit rock bottom, the weight of the world is on their back, so they need hope and belief in something bigger, something that’s going to pull them out of that trench,” he said.
There are about 250 recovery churches or congregations in Tennessee, and about 50 others have sent in paperwork to apply, Burks said.
Cokesbury United Methodist Church is a recovery congregation. The church started “Recovery at Cokesbury” 15 years ago after seeing the impacts of addiction in West Knoxville.
“Fifteen years ago that was kind of a radical idea that we should have a recovery service in a church,” said Rebekah Fetzer, director of ministries and associate pastor at Cokesbury Church and founder of “Recovery at Cokesbury.”
Fetzer said she has seen the…