UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
More than 150 people learned how to administer a naloxone kit, like this one, at workshops last year. Photo: The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck

Churches respond to fentanyl crisis

Three United churches have learned how to administer naloxone, the drug overdose antidote.

By Lois Ross

When the national fentanyl crisis began making headlines in the Ottawa media more than a year ago, Rev. Hilary Merritt was moved to find a compassionate and practical response.

Last year, she organized events at City View, Orleans and Kitchissippi United churches, and by November more than 150 people had learned how to administer naloxone, the drug overdose antidote that is credited with saving lives across Canada. The clergy, health-care workers, teachers, teens, parents and grandparents who attended all went home with greater knowledge of the crisis and a free naloxone kit.

“There is nobody who does not know somebody who is affected by the opioid crisis, whether they realize it or not,” says Merritt, the Ottawa Presbytery minister for youth and young adults (YAYA). “People stereotype drug addicts as homeless or living in shelters — but these are kids and adults from everywhere. This crisis knows no boundaries.”

Across Canada, the opioid crisis is growing. There were 2,861 opioid-related deaths in 2016, with the unofficial count in 2017 nearing 4,000. In the capital, nearly 400 people were admitted to Ottawa Hospital for emergency opioid overdoses in 2017, and several safe injection sites were opened last summer.

Prior to hosting the naloxone demonstration, Merritt attended a training workshop led by Ottawa pharmacist Mark Barnes and organized primarily for Anglican clergy. Afterwards, Merritt and her YAYA committee decided to offer similar workshops within Ottawa Presbytery, which represents 58 congregations.

“The United Church is a socially conscious denomination that wants to express our faith by responding to the real needs around us,” says Merritt, “so the question is always, ‘How can we respond?’”

The three workshops Merritt organized have created “a ripple effect,” she says, with participants sharing their knowledge and organizing more workshops.

“There are few issues that touch such a wide demographic. People come out shocked when they hear the extent of the problem.”

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!


Courtesy Aurora Coulthard

To those who said I'll only be respected as a minister because I'm pretty

by Aurora Coulthard

A young ministry student says Christians, both within and outside of the United Church, have discouraged her from following her call.

Promotional Image


Editor/publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Sharing a meal with friends is a radical act of gratitude

by Jocelyn Bell

"I’ve begun to consider that regardless of how I’m feeling on Thanksgiving Day, the very act of preparing and enjoying a feast is an expression of gratitude in and of itself."

Promotional Image


Meet beloved church cats Mable and Mouse

by Observer Staff

They're a fixture of Kirk United Church Centre in Edmonton.

Promotional Image


September 2018

Period poverty is a serious issue in Canada

by Angela Mombourquette

The high cost of menstrual products means many Canadians go without. Activists are seeing red.


October 2018

My church was literally dying, until we returned to prayer and confession

by Connie denBok

"No magic formulas. Just grace emerging through weakness."


October 2018

4 Canadians with disabilities on the challenges they've faced in the workforce

by Diane Peters

Of the 14 percent of people in Canada with a disability, only half are employed. Companies are losing out.

Promotional Image