Advocacy: Champions for Change – Bringing Hope to Those Struggling with Addiction

Excerpt from St. Peter Catholic Church, Lincoln, NE

“Imagine people in your congregation being as comfortable bringing casseroles to a family whose mother is in alcohol or drug treatment as one who is hospitalized for cancer.”

This hope, expressed by Rev. Otto Schultz in the brochure for the Nebraska Faith Partners, gets right to the heart of this program’s mission to provide caring support for anyone expressing personal or family concerns with alcohol, drugs, or mental health. While the services of Faith Partners go far beyond the simple gesture of a hot meal, the core message remains — the people of St. Peter are here for you every step of the way.

Faith Partners, Inc. was founded in Texas in 1995 to provide faith communities with a team approach for reaching out to those struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. Today, the organization has programs in over 20 states, with churches of various denominations coordinating Faith Partners Ministry teams. Here in Nebraska, Rev. Schultz helps churches initiate and develop this valuable program.

Parishioner Brad Decker first had the idea to initiate a Faith Partners Ministry at St. Peter back in February. Since then, he has been focused on developing a resource team here at St. Peter, in collaboration with Faith Partners Nebraska, Region V Prevention Systems, and four other local parishes — St. John, St. Joseph, St. Michael, and Cathedral of the Risen Christ.

Like so many, Brad knows firsthand how life-changing programs such as Faith Partners can be. Brad grew up in an alcoholic family and has been working in drug and alcohol counseling for four years now helping people find different support groups and treatment options.

Knowing that the first step toward healing is often the most difficult, Brad views Faith Partners as a crucial service to those seeking a listening ear and resources on addiction recovery.

“A lot of times, people just don’t know where to start,” he says. “So, it’s important that they can be given the comfort in knowing that their church, their congregation, their parish have people that they can just pull aside and talk to, and that will help them wade through the uncertainty of the process. We have a collection of resources — community resources, 12-step meetings, other group settings, and additional assistance — needed for guiding people through the process, including Catholic Social Services and counseling programs that are available.”

In the United States each year, there are about 90,000 deaths related to alcohol abuse and another 50,000 to opioids. In a recent survey of 11 Nebraska congregations, 44 percent of respondents said that they or someone close to them was affected by addiction. Despite its prevalence, many individuals and families suffering from addiction may still feel judged for their struggles.

“Rev. Otto Schultz calls addiction ‘a casserole disease,’ meaning if someone is in the hospital, you bring a casserole, so why is addiction not considered in the same way?” Brad says. “He’s trying to pierce through that stigma when it isn’t respected in that way, and when families are not willing to talk about it.”

Resource team members with the Faith Partners Ministry receive state-provided training on the different ways they can provide caring support to those struggling with addiction. The ministry does not provide counseling services. Rather, team members are available to anyone looking for someone to whom they can reach out and share their concerns. The specific support they may offer is highly adaptable and specific to each individual’s needs, and strict confidentiality is always maintained.

“It’s kind of a referral system, letting people know that there are people in the church willing to listen, educate and guide them to going in the direction that they might need,” Brad says.

Now that Brad has begun the process of starting a Faith Partners Ministry here at St. Peter, he hopes that many parishioners will be interested in becoming a part of our resource team. As a witness to the countless good works of our faith community, he does not doubt that this new ministry, too, will offer solace and direction to many families and individuals.

“With all the leadership and the parish involvement, St. Peter has been a very solid and forward-thinking parish, and innovative in how they can serve and help the community,” he says. “I’m excited about the long-term potential Faith Partners could have — not only in our parish but throughout the diocese — as a pathway for people to strengthen their connection with their church.”

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