BECKLEY, W.Va. — Locals filed into Calvary Church of God’s sanctuary Tuesday morning, but not for worship.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey traveled to Beckley to continue promoting a faith-based initiative aimed at encouraging religious groups across the state in the substance abuse fight.
Several other speakers took the podium after Morrisey, including local law enforcement, first responders and substance abuse treatment groups. Calvary Church of God Pastor Thomas Carver said they want to help in any way they can.
“In light of the drug epidemic in our region, we are not just hoping for change, we intend to be an effectual part of that change in any way we can.”
Morrisey’s Beckley conference is just one of several he has hosted on his “Combating Addiction with Grace” program that originated in Parkersburg. Morrisey has previously held similar events in Fairmont, Martinsburg and Wheeling.
“We found that across West Virginia, and across the country, faith-based initiatives work,” Morrisey said. “A lot of times, there are people in the community who are able to reach out and provide counseling services, provide transportation. These are the leaders in the community. It’s so important when you’re attacking this problem that you start from the ground up.”
Morrisey said the goal of the initiative is to connect faith leaders with law enforcement, first responders, treatment centers and local substance abuse groups. He envisions a network where addicts can call for local assistance.
“If you’re calling from Raleigh County or you’re from Wyoming County or Mercer County, you want to have the ability to reach someone local in your area and not have to go up to Charleston. You want to have the ability to have that quick response and then from there make sure that you get the help that you need.”
Attendees also heard from representatives of local treatment groups like One Voice based in Beckley and Sound Mind out of Lester. Several tables were set up in the church’s lobby providing resources to educate about drug abuse and its statewide impact.
“Make no mistake of it, treatment has to be part of the solution,” Morrisey stated. “While we’re very aggressive prosecuting, you can’t sue your way out of this epidemic. We have to be able to continue our focus holistically. This is a community that is being empowered.”
According to Morrisey’s office, the “Combating Addiction with Grace” initiative also includes drug incinerators, needle boxes to safely dispose unwanted or expired prescriptions, multi-state partnerships and a major change of drug policies. Morrisey concluded by addressing the concern of mixing state and church interests.
“This isn’t propagating or advancing a specific religion. It’s just working within the community in order to solve problems.”