Several Rochester area churches are planning a conference to provide support to faith leaders as they try to help members of their congregations affected by the opioid epidemic.
"Churches have always dealt with crisis and tragedy,” said Mike Hennessy, spokesperson for the Churches Combating Addiction Conference. “Even people who aren't going to church at the time turn to the church when there is a crisis. What I think is new is the volume of crisis and tragedy that this epidemic is bringing to churches."
Hennessey said a prayer ministry leader in his church, The Father's House in Chili, knew it was time to act when he attended a second funeral for an overdose victim last year.
Some of the individuals who are dying from opioid overdoses are well known in their church communities.
"We're losing kids who were trained right and brought up in the church and brought up in great households and they're known to the pastors," said Hennessy.
On January 27, church representatives will attend a conference at the Church of Love Faith Center at 700 Exchange Street, Rochester 14608 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. It will feature experts from law enforcement, hospitals, and recovery agencies.
The scheduled speakers include Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter and Gates Police Chief James Van Brederode. Workshops will be hosted by Celebrate Recovery, Teen Challenge, Gates to Recovery, Catholic Family Center, Churches Combating Addictions, and Jim Wesley, former forensic chemist supervisor at the Monroe County Crime Lab.
Hennessey said members of any religious denomination are welcome to attend, but the event is Christ-based. The conference is free, but pre-registration is required.