ATS The Bridge, church combat opioid crisis

By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
Posted 6/14/18

ATS The Bridge, an organization which raises awareness about the dangers of drug addiction, is teaming up with a local church to host two events highlighting this area’s opioid …

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ATS The Bridge, church combat opioid crisis

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ATS The Bridge, an organization which raises awareness about the dangers of drug addiction, is teaming up with a local church to host two events highlighting this area’s opioid crisis. 

Washington Avenue Baptist Church will host ATS The Bridge for both its Sunday gatherings on June 24. 

Pastor Jason Butte said these events are being planned to draw attention to an issue facing families both inside and outside the church’s walls. He noted that at least one church member has lost a loved one to an opioid overdose. 

“This is something that is hitting families hard,” Butte said. “The opioid crisis is bringing brokenness to so many in this community.” 

The Sunday morning service, beginning at 10:45, will feature a presentation from Scott Elam, chairman of ATS The Bridge’s board of directors, who will give an overview of this issue.  

During the evening service time, beginning at 6, there will be a panel discussion involving several who know the local opioid crisis well. 

Panelists will include Elam; Bill Cherry, director of the 10th Judicial District Drug Task Force; local physician Dr. Gerard Mazza; and Brian Keplinger, who leads the Celebrate Recovery group at South Cleveland Church of God; and Rachel Goins, a local mother who lost her son to an overdose. 

At both events, informational tables will be set up in the church lobby for anyone wishing to learn more about the issues discussed — including how one can receive help for an addiction. 

“It’s a huge opportunity if individuals are wanting more information,” Butte said. “We invite the whole community to join us.” 

On May 23, ATS The Bridge hosted a Pastors' Forum event to inform local church clergy of the severity of the local opioid crisis. Speakers addressed everything from the science behind addiction to how they as local faith leaders could help. 

This event resulted in ATS The Bridge receiving calls from a few local church leaders interested in sharing this information with their congregations. These include Westmore Church of God and Westwood Baptist Church. 

Washington Avenue Baptist was the first to schedule an event, spurred on by the severity of addiction’s effects on the local community. 

“We gave the pastors a challenge: How can you bring this information to your people? Because it is affecting so many families, churches need to be in the know,” said Reba Terry, executive director of ATS The Bridge. 

Terry said many people who have overcome their addictions have done so with help from groups and individuals affiliated with faith-based organizations, such as Christian churches. 

She said she has also heard from local law enforcement and emergency medicine officials that drug overdoses — and overdose deaths — are becoming increasingly common. That is why ATS The Bridge is wishing to make members of the local faith community aware of this and how they can help. 

“This is so, so important,” said Terry. 

Both of the June 24 events are free, and no tickets or reservations are required. The church is located at 1720 Perry St. S.E. in Cleveland, near Spring Place Road. 

For more information, visit www.atsthebridge.org or call 423-464-4600. 

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