Partners for Prevention in Allegany County (PPAC) works to build relationships with different community sectors and to invite them to the table for the prevention of alcohol and substance abuse within Allegany County. One of the most important voices are that of the faith community and unfortunately, many agencies and initiatives do not think to include them despite that most people, during the times of crisis, first seek the counsel of their Pastor or a local place of worship before reaching out to other agencies or individuals.
Faith leaders have great influence in the lives of people who are hurting and who need help, and often can be the bridge or the deciding factor that leads to a life-changing decision. PPAC is always working to build relationships with our local faith community so that their perspectives are integrated into conversations that address our community’s most pressing needs.
The following statement from Pastor Tom Kristoffersen of the Presbyterian Church of Wellsville helps to shed some light from his perceptions and experiences regarding alcohol and substance abuse and the importance for other faith leaders to have a voice at the PPAC table.
“It is evident to me that substance abuse is a big, and growing, problem in our area. There’s lots of alcohol abuse and marijuana, along with meth and prescription drugs. It’s my understanding that heroin is on the rise as well, and that’s not a good sign for our community. We definitely need to do more to educate people in the areas of prevention and in getting help once they realize that they need it.
I believe that people need to be warned about just how dangerous substance abuse is on multiple levels, and that it is neither “harmless” nor a “victimless crime”: it obviously affects your body and mind, and can destroy your health; it can lead you to harm other people, whether it’s impaired driving, neglecting your kids, etc.; it can lead to destroyed relationships and broken families.
As a Christian and a pastor, I believe that people need to hear more than that. Though it’s true that using these substances may bring some momentary pleasure, relief, or escape, ultimately these things do not and cannot truly satisfy. In fact, they do the opposite: they hurt us, enslave us, and leave us broken and empty. So where should we turn? To God, because He is the source of the joy and satisfaction and fulfillment and purpose that we all long for, though we vainly search for it in all kinds of other things. True hope is found ultimately in Jesus Christ alone.
In my pastoral ministry here in Wellsville for the past eight years, I’ve learned quite a bit as I ministered to several people struggling with substance abuse (mostly alcohol). They have experienced jail and even death, not to mention the heart-breaking devastation suffered by their families. Sadly, some (many?) people don’t see the danger until they get some sort of serious wake-up call, and sometimes by then substantial damage has been done.
There are some good programs available in our area, but I think more can definitely be done to educate people and try to prevent these train-wrecks before they happen. Therefore, I’m very thankful for the work that PPAC is doing along these lines to help both the people who struggle and their families. I have personally been involved in the pill drops that PPAC has been running for several years. I appreciate this program because it’s important to educate people about the potential dangers of leaving prescription drugs lying around, and it’s good to provide an opportunity for people get those unused medications out of the wrong hands.
I’m thankful to PPAC for all that they have done and all that they’re doing for our community. Though it’s obviously not in any way a religiously-affiliated organization, I’m thankful that the coalition has not excluded the faith-sector from having a voice at the table. In fact they’ve encouraged our participation, realizing that it brings an important perspective to the conversations that need to take place, and do take place, about these important matters. It’s reassuring to know that there are people in the coalition that I can call for information and advice when I’m ministering to individuals and families who are struggling.
So thank you PPAC for your great work. Keep it up!”
Pastor Tom Kristoffersen
Presbyterian Church of Wellsville