Recovery Network holds regional meeting at West Side Christian Church

Published 6:48 pm Monday, April 3, 2017

From Memphis to Mountain City, the state and faith-based organizations are looking at providing another alternative.
The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has been on the forefront of faith-based initiatives to serve residents that are suffering from addiction with drugs and substance abuse. To help further the cause, the Northeast Tennessee Faith Based Recovery Network held their first ever meeting in Carter County on Monday, April 3, at West Side Christian Church to a packed house of churches, faith-based organizations and members of the public looking to help out with the issue.
Having an ability to bring faith-based organizations together is one way to combat addiction, according to Monty Burks, who serves as the director of special projects with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
“Addiction is not a moral failure,” Burks said. “It’s a treatable disease. We have to move away from stigmatizing language when we refer to our people. We all know how stigma works. My name is Monty Burks, and I’m in long term recovery. I just celebrated my 17 years from bondage.”
Burks shared his story of battling through addiction and the importance of having an alternative for individuals battling through an epidemic. According to numbers provided by the state, 432,000 residents are fighting through some type of addiction.
“And that’s not everyone,” he said. “That’s just the numbers we were able to come up with statistical analysis. According to the Census Bureau, we have 11,542 faith-based organizations in our state, and I think it’s closer to 12,000 from my own numbers. We are the last strong front for people. ”
Burks added that faith-based programs might not be for everyone, but the goal of the state is to utilize the resources available to help individuals.
“There are so many different paths to recovery, but why can’t we have more options,” Burks asked. “We 8.2 people of faith per one person that needs help. Sometimes it just takes a hug; sometimes it takes something more.”
Churches can help with coalitions by attending meetings, supporting outreach to reduce the stigma of addiction, provide space for meetings and have volunteers available for special events.
Becoming part of the network is free of charge. Faith-based organizations can receive different resources from the state to help work with individuals. Burks encouraged people looking to join to contact him by email at or call his office at (615) 770-1783.
Jilian Reece, Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition (CCDP), provided an update on the different programs currently underway within the county to help with issues, including tobacco cessation, prescription drug, and opioid abuse. Reece Townsend, a FACT Summit teen from Carter County, joined Reece on stage and gave an update from the County teens that are pledging to make sure their peers steer clear from tobacco usage.
Following dinner, attendees were able to hear from a pair service resource panels that are working inside the community.
Faith Based Network members that hosted a panel included: Linda Austin (Bristol Lifestyle Recovery), Rich Riesz (Recovery and Care Director at Grace Fellowship Church), Kenneth Bonner (Crossroads United Methodist Church), Lisa Tipton and Aaron Free (Carter County Recovery County), and Maurice Widner (chaplain at the Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City and TDOC initiative).
The other panel that addressed attendees included community-based treatment and recovery providers for youth. Individuals that gave response were Nina Hancock (Adventure Program at Frontier Health), Heather King and Charles Banner (Youth Villages).
The Faith Based Recovery Network will meet again in the region in August in Unicoi County.
“We’ve had 37 of these forums,” Burks said. “We’ll be back in your region in August. Then we’ll be back again in another county in your area. When the new year starts, we’ll be back again. Our goal is to grow this network and serve our community members the best way possible.
For more information on CCDP or other resources available in the area, contact Reece at (423) 297-1335 or visit the Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition Facebook page online.

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