In a testimony to community collaboration and an example of “going to the margins”, Garden Chapel opened their doors to leaders, law enforcement and local neighbors in Morris County, New Jersey for a special forum on opioids and addiction.
This free event held at Garden Chapel on Saturday, April 28 was, on the surface, a resourcing fair – raising awareness of the opiate epidemic, highlighting positive prevention strategies, and connecting people with local treatment and recovery services. But for anyone who’s dealt with substance abuse and mental illness or knows someone who has, this event connected on a deeper, more critical level.
Data released by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office shows that drug overdose deaths in the state to be on a record-shattering pace in 2018. Pastor Tim Hart knows all too well the effects of the drug crisis, having lost both his brother and best friend to the epidemic. “I have participated in way too many funerals for friends, parishioners and their children due to this crisis,” he says. “I have been to at least 12 funerals in 2017 and 2018, just from opiate, fentanyl, and heroin overdoses. I believe this is the devil’s imitation of the Holy Spirit, to steal, kill and destroy lives and families.”
Over the course of the day, thirty-four individuals received free training on administering Naxalone (Narcan), which could potentially save the life of someone overdosing on opioids. Morris County’s HOPE ONE program was on site, offering access to services and treatment facilities to anyone in need. The entire event was presented as a part of the countywide Stigma-Free Initiative, which aims to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and substance use disorders. “To truly change the way society views individuals with substance abuse and mental illness disorders, we must change our language, attitude and be more compassionate,” said Dover (NJ) Mayor James P. Dodd. “Regardless of the spectrum, we all know or have people in our lives who face these challenges.”
Friends and pastors at Garden Chapel did their part as hosts, running a children’s program and providing Spanish translation, and are already seeing results. The event has assisted at least 10 people to take the first step and enter detox or rehab, some of whom have direct connections to Garden Chapel, and calls are still coming in.
“We can extend our hand out to someone in need, who can grab it and get the help he or she needs,” says Victory Gardens (NJ) Mayor David L. Holeman. Undoubtedly the hands of Garden Chapel will continue to be among those extended. “All that know me know how dear this topic is to my heart,” says Pastor Tim, “and my passion is to never stop fighting for the lives of those struggling with this addiction. I will continue to cry out to GOD while putting my faith into action, by partnering with anyone and everyone to make a difference.”