DECATUR -- After seeing heroin use grow in recent years throughout Central Illinois, some local churches have joined in the fight to stop it.
From reaching out through the making of a documentary to offering 12-step programs within their ministries, religious leaders in the community aren’t turning a blind eye to the problem.
“In the last year, I have been to visit more people in jail more for this reason than at any time in my previous time here,” said Joe Bowman, lead pastor at Heartland Community Church in Decatur. “It’s become such an inexpensive way to catch the high -- the $5 hit. It’s a big problem, and we’re offering hope for anyone who is struggling with it.”
Bowman recently showed a documentary at Heartland that was also shown at several churches in DeWitt County called “Addicted to Death.” The Faith-Based Heroin Coalition of DeWitt County, along with Broadleaf Video Productions, created the 27-minute documentary about the rash of overdose deaths (eight) in the Clinton area last year. It was shown first at First Christian Church in Clinton.
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In the documentary, police officials said after not seeing the drug in DeWitt County in the past 15 years, there were six deaths in nine months. One of the recovering addicts featured in the film said she could get heroin in Clinton within 10 minutes from one of multiple sources.
Church minister Greg Taylor, a member of the Faith-Based Heroin Coalition who was also part of the documentary, told The (Bloomington) Pantagraph the movie helped enlighten the community and further the conversation.
“After the forum, I talked with a lot of people who have a family member or close friend struggling with an addiction,” Taylor said. “This gives us the opportunity to talk about what resources are available and to also let everyone know that they aren’t alone. This is a serious problem in our community.”
Bowman caught word of the documentary through the Pastor Mark Yeske at Heartland’s Clinton campus; the mother in the film whose son died of an overdose attended church there.
“He was telling us about DeWitt County’s efforts to make this documentary and the funds and efforts going into fighting it,” Bowman said. “I watched it and decided we should show it here, too.”
Bowman also invited several members of the community to the showing, including staff from Heritage Behavioral Health Center. Joe Drew, an addiction specialist at Heritage who is also a pastor, was in attendance.
Bowman said he’s glad to be a part of the increased awareness of the problem and wants to be part of the solution. Heartland offers a program for anyone suffering from any kind of addiction called, “Stepping into Freedom.”
“We want to help any individuals we have at our church live their lives to the fullest,” Bowman said. “It’s loving God and loving others while providing real ministry for real life. If we can give people a path to freedom, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Another popular faith-based addiction program in Decatur is Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step program offered by Decatur First Nazarene.
Mike Burkham, who lost his stepson Tyler Yount to a heroin overdose in 2009, was also in attendance during the screening and spoke during the discussion to follow.
“The devil roams the face of the Earth seeking who he can devour; right now, he’s in the streets of Decatur,” Burkham said. “We can’t arrest our way out of this problem. The power of God and Jesus are the only things that are going to save us.”