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New state-funded program travels across Indiana to educate faith leaders on how to help drug addicts

Posted at 10:04 PM, Jul 16, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS — Drug addicts and the church are an unlikely pair, but an untapped resource, some faith leaders say, that if educated could save lives.

"I think the only silver lining from the opioid crisis is that we have no choice but to talk about it," Justin Phillips, founder of 'Overdose Lifeline,' said.

Phillips lost her 20-year-old son to a heroin overdose, and the director of her program, Rev. Andrea Boutselis, has a son who struggles with a heroin addiction.

"I, myself, sat in the pews for years and didn't talk about it because I knew the perception that existed," Reverend Boutselis said.

Opioid addiction is real, and it is affecting real Hoosier families.

"Our numbers are catastrophic — how many deaths there are," Boutselis said. "We can't afford to ignore this."

Thanks to an Indiana State Department of Health grant, Boutselis and Phillips are driving across the state to educate church leaders on what to do when someone reaches out for help.

"Recently at one of our events, we had a member of the faith community say I don't know how to help," Phillips said. "The families are sitting here in silence. They're dealing with shame. And they need support from the pastors."

They're going to regions determined by the state to do training on how to support and connect people with recovery resources, and perhaps, host recovery meetings themselves. Plus, they train pastors how to administer Naloxone — a drug that reverses an overdose.

"By doing this education and awareness campaign, we are giving the faith community the tools they need to feel like they can respond instead of feeling like I don't know how to help," Boutselis said.

The faith mission was in Lawrenceburg Tuesday, and they will be in Gary on Wednesday and Richmond later in the week. Next week, the group will be in Indianapolis.