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Faith leaders pledge support in drug battle

By MARC KOVAC Capital Bureau Chief Published: April 2, 2017 10:39 AM

COLUMBUS -- More than two dozen faith leaders pledged their support to Gov. John Kasich March 31 in the state's battle against drug abuse.

Meeting with governor at a Columbus church, representatives of Christian, Jewish and Islamic communities agreed to speak monthly about drug issues as part of sermons and to adopt schools in their home communities to help combat drug use.

"As we do our work at the state level, we need a very strong partnership at the local level," Kasich said after a closed-door session that lasted more than an hour. " We know that when people hear about this problem, there's a 50 percent chance that they will never do drugs."

The meeting Friday came a day after the governor announced new limits on prescription painkillers, a move aimed at cutting down on the numbers of opiates being misused and potentially pushing people toward other drug addictions.

And the governor said there are more announcements to come on efforts to counter heroin and opiate abuse, including a new initiative he plans to announce during Tuesday's State of the State address in Sandusky.

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"You're going to have these announcements ongoing because the nature of the problem is such that you have to constantly evolve what you're doing," he said. "And as we find more things out, we're going to move to get things done."

Rich Nathan, senior pastor at Vineyard Columbus, who helped arrange Friday's meeting, acknowledged the drug epidemic in the state. But he said there's reason for hope, too.

"The good news is that there are lots of faith communities that are on the front lines doing something," he said. "What we hope to do is pull some of the great ideas together, some of the great practices together, share with one another and really assist in creating hope."

He added, "We know that if there's hope, people feel empowered. If the only thing we keep hearing is bad news, folks give up."

Kasich said the faith communities can play a big role in organizing efforts at the local level.

"We find that when we go into some of these communities, the communities don't even know what's available," he said. "We have to work at that To get the faith-based community involved is a huge plus for the state of Ohio, because think of all of the people they have access to either every Saturday or every Sunday where they can talk to people in those pews, those that have a problem can be helped and those who have never thought about drugs can be in a position of where they go, I'm not going to go there, I'm not going to any party and taking those drugs."

Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at mkovac@recordpub.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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