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!

Faith

The author is baptized at Central United in Calgary. (Photo courtesy of Al Coe)

Why I got baptized in a United Church at the age of 42

by Jacqueline Mercer-Livesey

"I told myself that I didn’t need to go to church to believe in God. I found peace and the Holy Spirit in the things that surrounded me. But still, there was a nagging sense of something missing."

Promotional Image

Observations

Editor/Publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Observations: The rewards of letting go

by Jocelyn Bell

Editor Jocelyn Bell reflects on the upcoming changes for The United Church of Canada, the magazine and in her own life.

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Two nurses tackle Vancouver's opioid crisis

Richard Moore is a resident of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. In this poignant interview, he explains the important work of nurses Evanna Brennan and Susan Giles.

Promotional Image

Faith

July 2018

250 United Church leaders have a message for Doug Ford

by Emma Prestwich

They're urging the new Ontario premier to remember those in need as he carries out promised economic reform.

Culture

July 2018

Tracing Nelson Mandela’s path a century after his birth

by Tim Johnson

A travel writer visits some of the places that shaped the anti-apartheid icon’s life.

Interviews

July 2018

Jamil Jivani sheds light on why young men radicalize

by Suzanne Bowness

In his book 'Why Young Men,' Jamil Jivani talks about his own experience as a troubled youth.

Promotional Image