Ecumenical Conference to Focus on Opioid Crisis in West Virginia

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston (DWC), Catholic Charities WV (CCWVa) and the West Virginia Council of Churches (WVCC) are working together to combat the opioid crisis in West Virginia.

Together, the group is hosting the “Faith Hope Love: Creating Connections for Healing” conference on Saturday, May 18, at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Morgantown.

This ecumenical conference will gather people across many faiths to discuss how the faith community is confronting the opioid crisis and providing essential services to those in the grip of addiction throughout the Mountain State.

“Almost everyone has a personal connection to someone experiencing the disease of addiction. It is so good to be able to get together and listen to our faith tradition to help us navigate this complicated web,” said Kate Kosydar, CCWVa parish social ministry coordinator.

“There are a number of ways a congregation can aid those enmeshed in this crisis. We hope this conference will spark initiatives among the faithful, who are also motivated by their faith to help others in critical need,” added Fr. Brian O’Donnell, S.J., DWC social ministries office executive director.

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Dr. Kevin Blankenship, founder and medical director of Jacob’s Ladder, will offer the keynote presentation. In 2014, an immediate family crisis with addiction brought Dr. Blankenship face-to-face with the urgency of this growing epidemic and the lack of recovery options throughout our country. Inspired by this experience, Dr. Blankenship has dedicated himself professionally to being part of the solution by directly serving the recovery industry and indirectly combating the stigma surrounding this issue in today’s society.

“As a Christian here in West Virginia, it’s become very clear to me that to avoid facing this current crisis is to avoid Christ himself, for he is so obviously present in the lives of those suffering the effects of addition and he’s calling all of us to be there too,” said Nick Mayrand, DWC department of formation and mission director.

People of any faith are encouraged to attend. Participants will gain greater understanding of the complexity of addiction, especially opioid addiction, and will learn about possible and existing community resources. Training in the use of Narcan — the antidote that first responders use in reviving those who have overdosed — will also be available.

The event is free and open to the community, however, space is limited; registration is required. Lunch will be provided to attendees.

For more information or to register, visit the website or call 304-841-1065.