CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia wants churches to start carrying the opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone.

“We just need to be prepared and be available in the community,” said Bishop Mike Klusmeyer.

Bishop Mike Klusmeyer of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia

Klusmeyer said the drug problem is present everywhere including West Virginia’s congregations.

“The reality is there are drug addicts in our congregations,” he said. “The church is not immune from sociable norms, so there are already people who are sitting in our pews who are suffering, but this is a larger issue and it’s an issue for the community at large.”

Klusmeyer pitched the idea last month at the Episcopal Church’s annual convention in Charleston.

Naloxone, also referred to by its brand name Narcan, is now being used by law enforcement agencies, schools and other organizations across the state. Klusmeyer is hoping the Episcopal Diocese, which includes 67 congregations in West Virginia, can jump on board.

“I would hope there would be multiple people trained,” he said. “Where would it be stored? It could be in somebody’s glove box. It could be kept in the perish office. It depends on what restrictions may be placed there by the state.”

Each congregation will have the option to provide the drug. “That’s going to be a local congregational decision,” Klusmeyer said.

Klusmeyer, who also serves as the president of the West Virginia Council of Churches, said the organization has been collecting community input throughout the state regarding the drug problem. He said the organization wants to see how West Virginia churches can play a vital role in combating the issue or saving lives.

“I believe the churches are at the center of communities both spiritually and physically often. We have the opportunity to be present in places that others may not be around,” he said.

West Virginia has the highest overdose death rate in the nation.

Too many young people are dying from heroin and other drug overdoses, Klusmeyer said.

“There’s an intaglio print in my office that says ‘In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons’,” he said. “We have a war. No parents should ever have to bury their child.”

Klusmeyer said some of clergy who are connected to the Council of Churches already carry their own naloxone kits.

“They’re ready,” he said. “The Council of Churches is taking steps forward to be present and be a change agent in this situation.”

The council is working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Charleston to address the issue.

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