Close to 100 church and interfaith leaders and chaplains from Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas and other parts of the country met in Deerfield Beach, Florida, on Wednesday, April 14, to learn more about the mental health and addiction issues facing their congregations and communities. The “Hope for Healing” conference was the first, annual, faith-based conference to be hosted by FHE Health and to address the role that faith communities can play in loving and ministering to people with addiction.
How to Love and Minister to People with Addiction/Mental Health Issues
Attendees, mainly chaplains and leaders of faith communities, learned about various issues that impact ministry to people with addiction and mental health conditions. They also heard from the following speakers:
- Don Maines, a longtime board member of the Broward Addiction Recovery Center (BARC) and former Special Advisor to the Sheriff when “designer drugs” first came to Broward County, spoke about emerging drug trends, such as the latest versions of synthetic drugs.
- Chris Taylor, who as a pastor, prosecutor and Supervisor of Drug Court spoke about the link between addiction and crime and avenues to treatment from the criminal justice system.
- Kristina Robb-Dover, co-author of The Recovery Minded Church: Loving and Ministering to People with Addiction, spoke about how shame can be an obstacle to treatment and ways that leaders can destigmatize addiction in their congregations.
- Beau Nelson, Chief Clinical Officer at FHE Health, addressed the topic of how to identify behavioral health needs in congregations and suggested some ways to encourage faith communities to make mental health more of a priority.
- Heather Palacios, a ministry leader and founder of the organization Wondherful, who shared her own personal story of “coming back from suicide.”
Why the Need for a Faith-Based Conference on Addiction and Mental Health?
FHE Health Community Impact Director Kathy Hurt was one of the lead organizers of the conference. Hurt said she was “prompted to create a faith-based, behavioral health conference from working in the community and seeing a need for more of a response and understanding.”
What Hurt is “most excited” about is that the initiative from the conference is now “continuing, through the formation of a committee of faith leaders.” The committee will meet for the first time in May. For now, their role will be one of educating and resourcing faith communities on behavioral health issues and destigmatizing addiction and mental health disorders.
In addition to raising awareness and encouraging greater understanding and less stigma, the Hope for Healing conference raised $1500 in funds to support the work of CODE 893. CODE 893, a support arm of local behavioral health coalitions, is a group that educates the public about the use and misuse of drugs and alcohol.
Free Resources on Addiction and Mental Health for Churches and Faith Communities
Whether they are chaplains, ministers, or other faith leaders, people in ministry have a lot on their plate. When someone in your care has an addiction or mental health need, you don’t have to go it alone. Call FHE Health at 1-888-686-1554. Our counselors are available 24/7 to answer any questions, offer support or help facilitate an intervention.