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Shepherdstown church brings opioid crisis to the forefront

By Staff | Sep 21, 2018

A drug identification board was part of the SADD display at Trinity Episcopal's coffee hour following Sunday's service focusing on opioid addiction. Photo by Toni Milbourne.

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Trinity Episcopal Church in Shepherdstown has realized that awareness of the opioid epidemic in the United States, and in the local community, needs be championed. To that end, the church members have formed a committee to work to respond to the crisis.

As part of the members’ efforts, the church participated in the West Virginia Council of Church’s Day of Hope on Sunday. In fact, the church made it a “Weekend of Hope,” holding a candlelight vigil on Saturday evening outside the church.

Rev. G.T. Schramm, lead pastor of the church, began Sunday’s Hope Service by saying the goal of Trinity Episcopal is to determine how they can respond to the opioid crisis. Schramm yielded the pulpit Sunday to guest speaker Mike Chalmers, editor of the monthly newspaper, The Observer.

Chalmers lost his brother at age 37 to addiction, a story he shared Sunday.

“We had 22 years of debris,” Chalmers said, mentioning his brother began using drugs at age 15.

“Why do young people think this is the way?” Chalmers said. “Hopelessness and shame are part of the reason. We need to create conversations and convey to the public that it’s okay to talk about this. The fact that people don’t want to talk about it leads it to remain in the shadows. When you talk about it, it makes it not so shameful.”

Chalmers talked of the staggering numbers affected in the United States by opioid addiction. “Thirty-to-forty thousand last year died directly as a result of opioids,” Chalmers said. “That’s a football stadium full of people.”

He provided additional statistics stating that in an average eighth grade classroom of 25 students, two of them will be using drugs or alcohol. By the tenth grade, the number rises to five or six of the 25 while at the senior grade level there or eight or nine using drugs.

During his talk, Chalmers suggested to Trinity’s committee members to solidify their group by giving it a name, a mission statement and goals. He recommended focusing on three topics: education, conversation and networking.

“To turn the epidemic around, you have to get to the young people and change their thinking,” Chalmers said.

Following the church service, attendees were invited to attend a coffee hour and gather information from various resources and groups set up in the church social hall. Among those were teen members of the local SADD chapter that meets at the Boys & Girls Club in Charles Town.

According to Madison Higgs, a sophomore at Jefferson High School, the chapter is the only one in the Eastern Panhandle.

“There isn’t a club at the high school,” Madison said. “It’s difficult to get into the schools.”

At Sunday’s event, Higgs and her friends shared a drug identification board as well as information on JUUL, a type of vape that has significant amounts of nicotine.

“The JUUL looks almost like a zip drive,” Higgs said. “And it puts out less smoke than the vape. Kids sit in the back of the classroom and use them.”

Schramm commended the committee’s efforts thus far, especially those of Chair Jan Hafer, and said he appreciated Chalmers’ input.

“Mike gave us some good ideas,” Schramm said of Sunday’s guest address. “Our biggest help is to pray for them. If we can help one — one flickering candle shows that it’s no longer dark.”