Drugs have inflicted a deep wound on our society and ensnared many people in their web.

-Pope Francis, Vatican Conference on Narcotics, November 2016.



In 2015 alone, more than 52,000 people died of a drug overdose in the United States, the majority of them (more than 33,000) from opioids.i Each day we are losing more than 91 Americans to opioid overdoses – and millions more are struggling with opioid addiction and suffering the consequences.
As a faith-based or community organization you are an instrumental partner in addressing and preventing public health issues. This e-toolkit from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships outlines ways in which you and your community can support prevention efforts and reduce risk, provide support to those in and seeking recovery to save lives and prevent future generations from harm.
Here are a few practical ways your community may consider bringing hope and healing to those in need:

We hope this toolkit is helpful to jump-start or advance your efforts to usher in a culture of compassion toward those struggling with addiction and its often severe consequences. We are grateful for your partnership.




Opiate addiction not only promotes isolation it makes it preferable. Heroin’s isolation needs community response.

Sam Quinones – Author of DREAMLAND 

“When I meet a Jewish person who is in active addiction, I do not offer them to go synagogue and pray. The first place I’m going to send them is to the appropriate 12-step group.” – Rabbi Taub 

Finding a supportive community is essential to ongoing recovery. The process of recovery is supported through relationships and social networks. Communities can offer to host programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, or other self-help support group. Programs like these help diminish the isolation suffered by those with addiction, connects them to others in recovery, and support those receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT) as part of their recovery.

  • * Offer your space for weekly recovery programs and/or self-help support groups for people with addiction or for their families needingsupport.
  • * Boldly post your recovery program or self-help support group schedule. List them on United Way’s 211, or  Drug Abuse.com. Let people know your community is supportive and committed to recovery.
  • * Drive members of the community who lack access to transportation to treatment and recovery support services programs.
  • * Be a resource and connect people to the help they need. Create an easy to access resource center or a “wall” on your Facebook page with information that might include:** Local AA or NA Meetings** Local Al-Anon Meetings and Alateen Meetings** Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.

    ** SAMHSA’s National Helpline (800)-662- HELP (4357) or 1-800-487-4889 (TTY). Free and confidential/help in English and Spanish 24/7.

  • * When offering public or congregational prayer, particularly prayers for the sick, please pray for people who suffer from addiction/opioid use disorder.

Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs.-National Institute on Drug Abuse

 Community members need to understand addiction in order to create a culture of acceptance and support. Once addiction is understood as a chronic disease condition, not a personal failing, stigma and shame can be replaced by compassion and hope.

As a pastor in West Virginia noted, “Churches are not neutral bystanders: what they don’t say is just as important as what they do say.”

Your community can partner with your local public health office, hospitals, community health centers, or nonprofit service organizations to host educational events on:


  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): Encourage discussions and training around evidence based medication- assisted treatment for opioid addiction.


  • Pain Management: Being a knowledgeable consumer is important. Know to ask: Is that an opioid? Is it necessary? Are there alternatives such as non-medication pain relief or self-management programs for my pain?
  • Safe Drug Disposal: 50.5 percent of those who abused prescription painkillers obtained them from friends or family.Learning about and promoting safe drug disposal sites can raise awareness and reduce the supply of opioids getting into the wrong hands.
  • Good Samaritan LawsInvite local law enforcement officials to talk about the laws in your state that may protect those providing and calling forhelp.

  • 90 percent of Americans struggling with addiction are not currently getting treatment. Making sure they get it can make a huge difference.

    • -HHS Secretary Tom Price,M.D.

    Being able to refer people to the right treatment at the right time and help navigate systems of care will save lives. Across the country lay leaders in faith and community organizations are being trained to make referrals to treatment, respond in an emergency, and provide on-going support groups for those in recovery and living with addiction.

  • Your community can partner with local public health offices, treatment facilities, hospitals, community health centers or nonprofit service providers to deliver capacity-building trainings which might include:
    • Motivational InterviewingA counseling approach that seeks to facilitate and strengthen an individual’s motivation to change their drinking or other behavior by aligning the change in behavior with their life goals.
    • Emergency ResponseRecognizing overdoses symptoms and administering naloxone (an opioid overdose reversing drug that is pulling thousands of Americans from the brink of death.)
    • Peer Recovery Models: By sharing their experiences, peers bring hope to people in recovery and promote a sense of belonging within the community.
    • Mental Health First Aid: Courses that gives people the skills to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis.

Drug addiction makes it hard to function in daily life. It affects how you act with your family, at work, and in the community. It is hard to change so many things at once and not fall back into old habits. Recovery from addiction is a lifelong effort.

The lives of individuals and their families can be dramatically altered and too often destroyed by addiction. Faith and community organizations are poised to support what SAMHSA identifies as the four major dimensions that support a life in recovery :

Health: Overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) or symptoms

Home: Having a stable and safe place to live

Purpose: Conducting meaningful daily activities (job, family caretaking, and resources to participate in society,etc.)

Community: Having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope

  • Your community can restore these life-giving essentials by:
  • * Providing help with employment readiness, housing, transportation, food, clothing, or child care and support for recovering persons and their families as they overcome the consequences of addiction.
  • * Designating a community leader to connect people to essential services through a created database or United Way 2.1.1.
  • * Offering life readiness and coaching programs for reentering formerly incarcerated citizens.
  • * Coaching families on financial management.

  • Close to 45% of high school seniors use marijuana daily, and 28 percent of youth have tried cigarettes by 12th grade. In addition, alcohol remains the most widely used drug by today’s teenagers. But did you know that prescription medications are some of the most commonly misused drugs by teens, after tobacco, alcohol and marijuana?Communities may also consider targeting some of their efforts on youth not only because the path of experimental substance use may lead to life changing and potentially devastating consequences but also because young people may be suffering in homes where addiction is present.
  • Exposure to early adversity, including child abuse and neglect, mental illness and substance abuse in the household, can contribute to poorer health outcomes and fewer life opportunities. ACEs have been associated with risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, mental health problems, and life opportunities that include high school non-completion, unemployment, and poverty. In addition, those with a history of child abuse and neglect are 1.5 times more likely to use illicit drugs in middle adulthood.
  • Consider offering programs and services that support families and empower youth that:
    • * Focus on prevention and offer positive parenting programs and programs that support strong relationships and families.
    • * Offer mentoring programs to support children of parents in active addiction.
    • * Gather resources, donate clothing items and necessities like cribs and car seats, and provide support for local foster families as they meet the needs of foster children.
    • * Help ensure that all children and youth have access to safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments so that all people can reach their full life potential.

  • No single organization or person can address the multitude of services needed to help people affected by mental health or substance use conditions… the best sources are the people who live, serve, and work in the community and the best results are often seen when they undertake such action together. – SAMHSA One Voice, One CommunityAcross the country treatment professionals, law enforcement, faith communities, service providers, the courts, schools, city and health recreation centers, media, business, policymakers, families and youth leaders are coordinating their efforts to serve those struggling with addiction.
  • To join a coalition visit Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), join or start a Recovery Community Organization, or contact your regional public health department, HHS Regional Offices, or SAMHSA Regional Offices and connect with diverse partners in collaborative, cross-cultural, and comprehensive substance abuse prevention efforts that make sense for your community.
    • * Lend your organization’s health “assets” to the effort. Whether you have space for a support group to meet, can hold educational forums, coordinate volunteers to help transport people to treatment and recovery support services or help with job interviews, your community’s contribution is an essential piece to the whole effort.
    • * Consider recognizing national observances related to substance abuse treatment and prevention
      • ** National Recovery Month, September 2017. Invite people in recovery to help with planning.
      • ** National Prevention Week, May 13-19, 2018. Annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, mental and/or substance use disorders.