Marion County officials say churches needed in battle against drugs

SHERIFF MATT BAYLES
SHERIFF MATT BAYLES

Leaders of Marion County's law enforcement agencies believe that the local faith community has an important role to play in addressing the ongoing drug problem.

Bishop Gregory Draper of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church asked law enforcement and court officials how churches "can be more supportive of what it is that you're doing and how can we get engaged as it relates to volunteering" during a conference on the topic of the opioid crisis held last Wednesday. Judges and probation officials from Marion Municipal Court and Marion County Common Pleas Court, local law enforcement leaders, and pastors from local churches participated in the panel discussion.

Marion County Sheriff Matt Bayles said while his deputies, officers from the Marion Police Department, and emergency medical personnel are the first people on the scene of drug overdoses in the local area and do their best to address physical needs of people, there is a need for others in the community to offer emotional and spiritual aid to drug addicts.

"I think we all have to come together to support people that are on drugs to try to get them off drugs. If there was a perfect answer to the drug problem, there wouldn't be a drug problem," Bayles said. "It takes a village to raise a child; it takes a village to help people that are on (drugs). It's a supply and demand thing. If the demand was not there for the drugs, supply is not going to be needed. I think if we get people into drug treatment, if we get people off of drugs to begin with then you're going to see a lot of the problem go away.

"I think the church can help with that by rising up with the families, taking them by the hand and helping them with the people in their families that might be addicted to drugs. Give them options. Give them support. I think that's very important. It's part of the answer to this problem."

Marion Police Chief Jay McDonald said the approach to addressing the drug problem in Marion County must strike a balance between enforcement of the law, treatment of addicts, and prevention of addiction.

"If we don't have prevention and enforcement and treatment, we're not going to make a difference," McDonald explained. "We're just going to keep this cycle going. We have to focus on all three legs of this stool. I really believe that the faith community can play such an important part in treatment by providing positive role models, by providing resources to kids who are on the edge, who can go one way or another way. The church has kept them in the fold and kept them going to the right and with a positive direction by involving them, by mentoring them, by showing them that you can live a happy and productive life without substance abuse.

"I think everything that has been said about treatment is absolutely right, but let's not forget about preventing people from starting down this path before they start (using drugs), then we don't have to invest all those treatment resources, all those enforcement resources, if we can stop it before it starts."

Marion Police Chief Jay McDonald
Marion Police Chief Jay McDonald

Bishop Corredon Rogers, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Marion and the coordinator of the Marion County prosecutor's drug intervention program, is in a unique position to address the local drug problem because he deals with people both as a spiritual leader and as a court official.

"One of the things I love about our community is that our community is unique because our law enforcement officials have partnered with the faith community time and again," Rogers said, noting that the police department, sheriff's office, prosecutor's office, and local courts have been willing to work with him and other faith leaders on a variety of projects to benefit the community. "We want to heal our community. In Marion, we get up every day and go forth to do that. We work together. We talk. We come to an understanding.

"The issue that we are facing in our community today, just law enforcement can't fix it. Just treatment can't fix it. Just the church can't fix it. ... It's going to take all of us to fix this."

Corredon Rogers, pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church
Corredon Rogers, pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church

Rogers said the opioid conference held last Wednesday is a prime example of law enforcement and the courts joining together with the faith community to address the drug issue in Marion County. He explained that representatives of those bodies along with those who work in the treatment and healthcare fields meet to discuss drug addiction and how to address it.

In addition to Rogers and Draper, other faith leaders in attendance included Superintendent Michael Wade of True Faith Church of God in Christ in Marion, Elder Willie McGary of True Faith Church of God in Christ, and Dr. David Evans of Agape Ministries in Washington Court House.

Along with Sheriff Bayles and Chief McDonald, Marion Municipal Court Judge Teresa L. Ballinger, Marion County Common Pleas Court Judge Warren T. Edwards, and Municipal Court Special Dockets Director James Boleyn also served as panel members for the event.

Email: ecarter@gannett.com | Twitter: @AndrewACCarter

This article originally appeared on Marion Star: Marion County officials say churches needed in battle against drugs