Dr. Leana S. Wen, Baltimore’s commissioner of health, is headlining Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Sisterhood’s 58th annual Interfaith Institute on March 12 by delving into Baltimore’s opioid crisis.
The number of opioid-related deaths continue to spike in Maryland, with 1,501 deaths between January and September 2017. That is 157 more deaths than during the same time period in 2016.
“Faith communities have a critical role in addressing the opioid epidemic; to learn to use naloxone to save lives and help us to fight the stigma that surrounds the disease of addiction,” Wen said. “And together we can treat everyone with dignity and compassion.”
“The Opioid Epidemic: Community Impact and Response” will include a keynote address by Wen, looking at the epidemic’s community impact and the ways Baltimore City and its surrounding communities are responding. A panel will include Howard Reznick, manager of prevention education at Jewish Community Services, and the Rev. David Ware of Church of the Redeemer. BHC’s Rabbi Andrew Busch will moderate.
“The personal, familial and societal challenges posed by the opioid crisis are very real and deeply troubling,” Busch said. “BHC and our Sisterhood felt it was important to draw attention to the issue and educate our members and those from other communities about this important issue.”
After the speakers, attendees will break into small groups for lunch-and-learn sessions led by facilitators, followed by a question-and-answer period to end the day.
“Over lunch, we purposely break into smaller groups so that each individual can ask questions and can engage with one another, building relationships — or at least the beginning of potential relationships,” Busch said. “I hope people will leave with a desire to help, to learn more and to be open to policy proposals that may be presented to address the opioid crisis.”
Reznick heads prevention education at JCS, which has historically been active in educating the community on drug addiction, its impacts and how people affected can get help. But Reznick said the recent spike in opioid addiction and deaths has put his department and its programs in higher demand.
“We’ve been doing addiction stuff for years and now, unfortunately because of the epidemic, we’re being sought after by groups and by schools,” he said. “The Jewish community is not immune from addiction and certainly not immune from the opioid epidemic. There is help and hope and a fair number of people in the community are getting help, either through formal programs or via 12-step recovery programs.”
Reznick said JCS has opioid-related events in March and April at Har Sinai Congregation and with Hadassah Greater Baltimore.
At Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Busch said that the issue merits continued attention.
“BHC congregants have been approaching me already with programming ideas for the future on this issue,” he said.
For more information or to register, visit baltimorehebrew.org.