Muskegon health organizations, churches partner to expand addiction recovery services

Dr. Monty Burks will speak at St. Paul’s Parish Hall in Muskegon on Monday, Nov. 13. Courtesy photo

The struggle with addiction is a long, hard road, and can leave those facing addiction, and the family and friends around them, feeling isolated—but local health organizations and faith leaders are hoping to change that by partnering to expand support in area churches.

Dr. Monty Burks, the Director of Faith Based Initiatives at the Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services, will address this expansion of support for those struggling with addiction at St. Paul’s Parish Hall in Muskegon on Monday, Nov. 18 from 5:30-7:30pm. The event, which is free and open to the public, is being supported by the Muskegon County Cooperating Churches, Muskegon County’s Public Health department, Mediation & Restorative Services, and the Coalition for a Drug Free Muskegon.

Burks, who was treated for addiction to such drugs as ecstasy and ketamine close to two decades ago, will discuss an initiative called “recovery congregations,” which he has overseen in Tennessee and which local officials hope to expand to at least 50 out of Muskegon County’s 240 churches. Recovery congregations meet such criteria as churches viewing addiction as a treatable disease, not a moral issue; sharing recovery information; and hosting recovery support groups.

“[Substance use disorder] professionals and local churches are hoping to work together to bridge the gap between substance abuse services, recovery coaches, and community resources,” the press release stated. “The evening forum will provide community members with education around the current initiative.”

Lily Marx, the program coordinator at the Muskegon County Cooperating Churches, emphasized the importance of growing support for those facing addiction in our community.

“Recovery congregations are just getting started here in Muskegon County, so we are excited to learn from the state of Tennessee, as well as from Dr. Burks’ personal experience with the program’s development and ongoing practices,” Marx said. “Tennessee has been doing this for some time; they now have more than 300 recovery congregations. There is always much to do in our community and new research all the time in the field of addiction recovery. Collaborating with treatment providers we can expand the supports for individuals and their families.  Faith-based organizations have a key role to play.”

Kate Kesteloot Scarborough, the executive director at Mediation & Restorative Services too said she too is looking forward to a dialogue around empowering individuals seeking help with addiction.

“People with a substance use disorder have often burned bridges with those around them,” she said. “Tennessee has been quite successful in galvanizing the faith community and equipping them to become a key support to those in recovery.  I am excited to hear from Dr. Burks how we can do more in our own community to support both people in recovery and the people who love them.”

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