Opioids Part 4: Breaking the stigma of addiction in the faith community
June 1, 2021

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In part 4 of our series on the opioid crisis in Appalachia, we talk to Rev. Paul Bennett.  Rev. Bennett is a native West Virginian and Episcopal priest in Portsmouth, Ohio.  We talk to Paul about breaking the stigma of addiction and normalizing harm reduction within the faith community, showing love and compassion to those struggling with substance use disorder, and how the War on Drugs was a terrible idea.  This episode has it all!

Chuck Corra: Back at it again. Part four of opioids. First intro John, we’re starting this at it again. All right. I got three topics for you.  You have not seen them until, I guess probably right now, but you haven’t read them.  So I’ve thought about these over the week. And so the three options are Rand Paul refusing to get the COVID vaccine, Senator Rand, Paul, the great state of Kentucky UFO Navy.

As in the Navy the UFO  videos from the United States Navy that recently have come out, they were more, they came out a little while ago, but it’s gotten some attention because there’s going to be a report from the Pentagon being released about it.  And I thought this was interesting.

Paul came out this week saying that Q Anon now as popular as some major religions, 

Big John: I think most people it is their religion. They don’t even well. And I think that’s  Donald, Trump’s their God.  Let’s see. And what’s funny about this too. You know that there are listeners right now who are like, He better pick this like one topic because, and I have literally no idea what people want.

So I’m just going to do what I think is best and look, the UFO Navy. Really. It makes my, it makes me start thinking, but I think ran Paul is probably    the discussion topic that we 

Chuck Corra: should cover and we can do it. Let’s do it. And then the other two, we’ll talk about on the exclusive, if you’re not a member of Patreon, check it out.

patreon.com/Appodlachia. You can join for as little as $5 a month. Okay.

Rand Paul might be the worst doctor ever

So Rand Paul, if you’ll recall.  I think he’s like an optometrist eye doctor, but a doctor, he went to school for it. She got the Dr.  In front of his name came out. I think it was this week or maybe last week and said that he was not going to get the COVID vaccine.

 Profiles in courage, Senator Rand, Paul’s doctor, who’s not getting the vaccine has already had the current virus in fact. And it has also gotten the shit beat out of him by his neighbor too. That’s not related to it, but it’s hilarious. So I wanted to mention it. Your thoughts. Why is he doing this?

Big John: Because it’s a play. Look it, I can connect two topics here. Rand. Paul is essentially playing to the aliens. He’s playing into the hand of the UFO Navy. Yeah, Paul is essential, he’s looking at QAnon, and it’s his golden goose.   That’s how he can continue to be as effective. I said I put that in quotes if you’re not watching this on YouTube to be as effective as he wants.

And so he panders to people who he knows are easily manipulated because anyone that’s essentially really against this vaccine or has.  Pushed it like MTG or now ran Paul they easily manipulated And it’s just one of those things that he’s a smart guy.

 Let’s not pretend like Ram. Paul’s not  yeah, he got his ass beat by his neighbor, but he’s not, 

Chuck Corra: you can be a, gimme a genius and be an asshole.  Yeah. 

Big John: He is a smart guy and he understands politics.  He’s, it’s been his entire life. So he knows that if he can get on this train early and keep pushing that narrative, he can ride that all the way to continually be in an office.

Chuck Corra: Yeah.  And let me correct myself. He said he was an ophthalmologist, which is still. Oh, okay. It’s still an eye doctor. I don’t, honestly, I couldn’t tell you the difference between optometrists and ophthalmologists. I don’t know, but you have to be at least not be stupid to be one of those.    We’ll give them that.

Yeah. He sees his political play and a very irresponsible when, by the way, I should add, and I think this headline I’ll give it to Yahoo news. They really did this one.  And I think that more.  News outlets should mirror this. Here’s the headline from the story you had COVID 19 period. Should you get vaccinated question mark ran.

Paul says no period scientists say yes. So actual scientists who.  Dedicated their lives to protecting people perhaps and developing vaccines and looking out for public health, say, yes, you should. But ran Paul who I guess has a political incentive to act as an idiot says no. And it’s a shame it’s w the reason I bring this up is that states with the tend to vote red, or at least states that tend to vote Republican, at least men there’s a lot of complicated things about that.

They’re having trouble getting people in rural areas, vaccinated. And look, we’ve talked about big Jim justice, governor West Virginia, and the show before, and he’s actually done not a not-terrible job. Of encouraging people to get the vaccine.   He wheeled out his obese dog to deal, press hit, fine, whatever, got people talking about it.

So I guess good for him.  But ran Paul, in my opinion, has a responsibility to be encouraging people to do that for public health related purposes, as much like Andy Beshear, their governor is doing  makes a difference. Cause he’s a Democrat in my opinion, but this is it’s solely responsible, not just for someone.

That it has such an important job as a United States Senator, but for somebody that’s a doctor that  even though he’s like a, an ophthalmologist, you still have to go to medical school for that. You still have to understand the basics of medicine and you don’t even have to understand that, to understand why a vaccine is important.

There’s a reason we don’t have polio anymore.  There’s also, or reason why yellow fever doesn’t exist in the United States because people who get. Oh, travel overseas, where it is  prevalent get inoculated. And    I say I put that up specifically because there was a discussion recently and I don’t remember who oh, it was, of course it was Marjorie Taylor green.

We’re not going to talk about her, but she brought up the vaccine passport  and made some  very racist and antisemitic comments about it. But it reminded me of when I  traveled to Kenya in 2010. And John, I had to have a little yellow trifled sheet of paper with me. I probably talked about this before on the show.

I had to have it with me showing that I had been vaccinated for  I think hepatitis yellow fever  typhoid, and maybe  one other thing. And I had to have with me at all times when I came and left the country, because they didn’t want me both spreading illnesses that may be prevalent in United States to Kenya and vice versa.

And that was pretty reasonable. It did not inconvenience me. I went to WVU health center, which you’ll be familiar with. Got it all done there. And   it wasn’t that bad and really, I don’t even remember doing it. So anyway, long spiel short ran, Paul is a terrible. Horrible person, horrible Senator  objectively a terrible neighbor.

And    and he does not deserve to be in office because he’s an irresponsible asshole. 

 Big John: The funny thing you mentioned polio, and I just thought about this. There was a. I think last year, no, it’d be the year before. There was an article that came out about a small cluster in Minnesota where people were essentially not getting certain types of vaccines and one of them  they were strongly against anything that related to  having to do anything with like polio or  there was one other thing.

 And  it was it like meningitis or something? I think it was. And  it was a giant cluster in Minnesota that just. Started just, it was rampaging the community because people were not getting vaccinated because they’re just, they’re so selfish and that’s the big thing to me. And you said it to Jim justice.

Look, I got some hate for saying this, but I don’t think Jim justice has done a bad job.    I, I don’t 

Chuck Corra: comparatively.  He’s on  especially if you can compare him to Randy and Paul 

 Big John: It’s just one of those things. Like I get it  he’s not done a perfect job.  And I think that the incentive is he tried, but it’s not a good incentive,  when you compare it to what’s going on in Ohio and even shit, California, who announced they’re giving away like $115 million. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah. It helps the Gavin Newsom’s in a tough recall lecture out there 

Big John: that’ll help. Everybody gets a hundred thousand dollars for getting the vaccine and a Tesla. But I don’t think Jim justice has done a bad job.

I don’t think Beshear has done a bad job. There are  there are people like bill Lee who have done a bad job, 

Chuck Corra: fuck off fucking terrible job to go back to plumbing, toilets. Cause he’s good at that 

Big John: look around    what’s the, oh shit. What is his name? The governor of Mississippi. 

   Chuck Corra: Tate Reeves 

Big John: Tate, a fast, he has the most punch 

 Taint Reeves.

Yeah. What am I? What I buddies  was talking about it and he was like, look, I’ve never seen the guy, but he has one of the most punchable names I’ve ever heard.  There are good things, bad things about everybody that’s doing stuff, but Ram Paul has not done anything good for this pandemic. 

 Chuck Corra: No.

The bare minimum is to encourage people to get the vaccine and look  yeah. I’ll be with you.  Jim justice, I’m glad that he has come out in support of it, I will say. And he 

Big John: got vaccinated. He got vaccinated on a live stream. So  yeah  it wasn’t like he was  he put his money where his mouth was.

Chuck Corra: Yeah. No, that, which was important. It was important for him to do. I’ll give him that.  Can I just to wrap this up, I had to Google  It’s so funny, the Rand Paul neighbor incident. Oh my God, this is the funniest goddamn thing.  So first of all, let me just state for the record. It’s not funny to assault a Congressman, a member of Congress.

It is in fact a felony. So let’s just be clear. And I do believe this guy went to prison for a little while. Wow.    This is great. Oh man. So the title of this article, NBC news, prosecutors were feel why ran Paul was attacked by neighbor. Okay. This is great. I’m going to redo like the first  three or four lines.

It was the last straw or in this case, the last twig Renee   Boucher, I don’t know how to pronounce it. 58 was charged on Friday with assaulting a member of Congress, a felony months after his sneak attack on Senator Rand. Paul in November, federal prosecutor said BoucherBoucher quote had enough after he witnessed Paul stack brush into a pile on his own lawn.

But near Bouchez property Boucher then ran onto Paul’s property and tackled him. Paul was wearing headphones at the time while mowing his lawn in bowling green, Kentucky. When he was attacked 

Big John: the first time I’ve ever heard that, like  I’ve seen people like make the neighbor joke, but I never, I just have been so lazy.

I didn’t want to, I didn’t even look it up, but that makes me  Less happy less okay. With it because he ran Paul, look, he’s done a lot of things wrong, but  he really wants to do anything wrong. I’m 

not, 

Chuck Corra: I’m not okay with it. I’m just saying  it’s really fucking funny that it was because he was putting brush in a pile, not because of his terrible policy views or anything he’s done, but it was because he was.

But in brush and a pile. And I do like the visuals of Rand Paul, like a goofy looking dude with giant headphones on just like in slow motion. Neighbor comes from behind, does like an open field tackle and just takes them out again, not glorifying that it was not a good thing for him to do. It sounds like he got some time for it.

So I am not encouraging that with any of our listeners, but I want you to just take that visual and sleep well with it tonight, you broke 

Big John: my beats. I said, I imagined red. He’d  worried, like studio beats and he, they just snap 

Chuck Corra: and be like, you’d be a guy. Be like, actually we’re solace by ludicrous.

Yeah, 

Big John: he could. Yeah. I wear a Ray con. 

Chuck Corra: So Rand Paul  he got tackled by his neighbor. He probably has some sore joints after that. I bet you, he wished she had some cornbread hemp CBD after that. Huh?    We’ve talked, look, I know you guys want to skip past this and I wouldn’t blame you. I do it a lot and podcast too, but just listen to me, hear me out this, try the gummies.

They’re delicious. They work. I have ADHD and CBD helps me. You know what? Because I’m, especially with ADHD, John, you know this, you got a lot of shit going on in your head, right? Lots of thoughts. It seems like you can’t ever quite it down. CBD. What? It does. Turn a little dial, dial it back. Some.  Quiets that a little bit, just  levels you out.

And  I liked that about it. The gummies are delicious.   The oil works to try it all out. It’s full spectrum.  And  it’s Kentucky based, family owned no corporate money involved crowdfunded for you. Don’t have to worry about buying into some  big company you don’t believe in. And John as always, what does Afro man say?

Big John: Hey. Look  when I think of CBD, the one thing I don’t want to do Chuck is I don’t want to pick out the seeds and stamps 

Chuck Corra: sick 

Big John: and tired of the I’m. So sick and tired of picking out seeds and stems from my CBD, which it would be very odd if I bit into a gummy. And  I got something like that, but this is full flat.

This is full flower stuff, right?  This is the. This is the game changer. 

Chuck Corra: Chuck. It is. It is. And just to be clear, it does not get you high. So if you’re worried about that, don’t worry about it. It doesn’t get you high. It just gets you feeling okay. And it levels things out for you and get you in a good spot.

So no need to worry about that. Jim, we had him on the show. He’s a great guy  and he got a great deal for us and for our listeners. I 

Big John: can’t believe it. I really, I look, I messaged Jim the other day. I said, Jim, I just want to make sure  y’all are still doing well.  He said, couldn’t be better.

Chuck could not be better. People love corn bread, hemp, and they’re buying it through our code 25% off. I don’t know how he makes any money, but Jim’s a great guy. So I guess  he’s just hoping. That the product speaks for itself. Anyway, cornbread, hemp.com. Go there. Buy something. Coupon code APPODLACHIA 25% off.

I just look, this isn’t going to be forever. Okay, get on it. Go buy something. If you want to try it. Now is the time, what else are you going to get? 25 bucks, right? 

Chuck Corra: It, climate change is accelerating at a rapid pace. The world might not be here much longer. So get after it, those gummies in  there’s gummies in a hundred percent money back guarantee.

If you don’t like it, 

Big John: I just realized  something for our vegan friends, the gummies are vegan, which I know. All of you all UV ins out there are worried about gelatin. So I just want to, I wanted them to know Chuck. I needed them to know that  they could consume these gummies, which is very rare.

Chuck Corra: Our  senior vegan correspondent, John has weighed in and you can know that you’re in safe hands there.  Yup. And a hundred percent money back guarantee. That means if you don’t like it, you tell Jim, Jim gives you your money back and you’re in the clear. So what do you have to lose? Literally nothing.

 So check it out.  John said 25% off Appalachia. That’s the code? Put it in. Boom, boom. Speaking. Speaking of neighbors though, we got some new neighbors. New Patreon members 

Big John: three new neighbors to our Patreon.  Ricky, Matthew, and Sebastian. Thank you so much for joining.

If y’all want to join patrion.com/ipod latch, we do exclusives every week. We have an entire series  on cryptids that we continue to re release episodes on that’s for the $10 and up tier. There are so many things you get to S you can have a sticker, even a shirt. Crazy stuff. 

Interview with Rev. Paul Bennett

 Chuck Corra: John speaking of religion, we’ve got an interesting episode today.

Reverend Paul Bennett Episcopal priest from Southeast Ohio, Portsmouth to be exact is on the show to talk about what he’s doing to try to bring awareness to harm reduction.  In the faith community. So it’s a really interesting conversation. I know before you all prejudge this  religion is complicated.

We’ve talked about on this show before Paul is probably one of the biggest critics of religion that I know, and he’s an Episcopal priest. He’s got the white color.  But one of the really interesting things about Paul is  he’s really, I think. He was upset by the fact that there was not much discussion in the church or even much action within the faith community to provide support for people struggling with substance use disorder and people struggling with opioids  and with the use of harm reduction  by members of the faith community in their own communities.

And so Paul has really, I think, pioneered this, he’s brought it to churches.  Where he’s from and where he went to seminary and also in Southeast Ohio now where he’s trained to use Narcan and train another harm reduction. He’s trying to have other churches use that too, and bring that to other members of faith community.

I think it’s a  really important conversation and one that  I know that you all will really enjoy and find very insightful and interesting.  John interested in your thoughts on it too, cause I know that you  you were really  intrigued 

Big John: by it. Yeah. It was one of those things.  When you. So when you first pitched out, cause I had never met Paul.

     This interaction is the first time I interact with him. Obviously Chuck has known him for a really long time when you first pitched the idea of having Paul on, I was a little worried, right? Because      I always, I think most people, at least the most people that listen to the show probably have a lot of the same feeling as like maybe.

The church hasn’t done enough or anything.  And really, I think that they’ve been part of the reason why some of these things are so stigmatized  and beat out as much as they are. And then getting to talk to Paul gives you an entire new perspective, and I would even say this, I don’t consider Paul.

To be a part of that group. Like  when I think of him, I don’t think of     the Catholic church  who shuns people who have addiction issues.  I don’t think of him as a  your local  like warehouse church that will pretend  to bless somebody, but never get them help.

 Paul is not like that. That’s one thing that I  really liked. He really has. Dedicated his time to trying to get people help    and really tried to get even more churches involved. So I think when people listen to this, they’ll understand that he is a very special  type of person, especially when it comes to those being in the church.

 He is unlike. Any  any leader of a church I’ve ever met. I promise you, we don’t go into in depth, religion or anything like that.  We don’t talk about  he’s not giving a sermon, right? Like he  we asked him questions about harm reduction. We  we stay on that topic. So even if you’re not comfortable with the idea of.

Somebody who is a leader of a church, I would ask you  just stay on and listen.  It’ll change your perspective. I promise you because it’s not what you think  it’s not what you think is about to happen. 

Chuck Corra: I think put a button on that. He really views that as an integral part of his. Role as a priest in the Episcopal church to be providing harm reduction and to be breaking the stigma of addiction.

 And it’s really admirable and it’s something that    I’m really proud of him for. And I should also fully disclose that  he is the  father to my godson, Andrew. So him and I go way back.  So it’s a really good conversation and I hope you’ll,

the reasons why I want to talk to you is because you’d mentioned doing a lot of this. To me. And I think it’s really important to understand  from your perspective, as a member of the faith community, what that means to you both personally and the community that you serve, but also as part of. What you do  as a priest   and with  I think the faith committee in general, because there’s a lot of people  a lot of people listen to our show who are religious.

There’s a lot who aren’t, and there’s a lot of skepticism with the church, I think appropriately.  And so I think it’d be really good to  hear from you and get your perspective of what you’re doing. 

Rev. Paul Bennett: Yeah.    And those that have  some skepticism about the church  I would probably lump me in with that as well.

   I think, especially when it comes to the area of substance use disorder  I think we do a lot more harm than good.  And so just  back up a little bit  So I began the journey down this road  in seminary  when a church that I was attending, we had a member that we believed was suffering a drug overdose.

And   we have the, what is it that a E D and all the stuff in the first aid, but of course we don’t have  any Narcan or Naloxone on hand.  It was a moment that we were caught up short. And so I discussed with the priest I was serving with  the whole situation. And we decided that we wanted to figure out how to get some, either Narcan or Naloxone for the  for the parish long story short.

It’s really hard for the average person to just go out and get some  at, especially a few years ago, it was even more difficult. And so I started trying to figure out how in the world we could get some and we couldn’t to be quite frankly this wasn’t. Yeah.  Yeah. 

 Chuck Corra: Not exactly your conservative bastion, right?

Yeah, no. And 

 Rev. Paul Bennett: We couldn’t secure any. And so I spoke with a classmate of mine who was also from Appalachia  who shared a similar drive. And so we went out and got trained to become  Naloxone trainers. And we began hosting trainings  at the seminary with the blessing of the seminary, after some conversations  about the importance of this.

And so they were supportive and we started training clergy on the importance of keeping a Narcan or Naloxone on hand and how to use it.  Quite frankly, it started because I was worried about  at that time, a lot of our homeless ministries, a lot of our feeding programs, I quickly shifted into the realization that  it w it might be just as important for our youth group members or our vestry members.

 I was definitely guilty of  the stereotypes of what substance use disorder would be like I have since seen the many different faces and they no longer believe that you need that, but this road lens  leads to homelessness or that sort of thing. Ah,  yeah. So we started trying to get it in every church that we could and then that.

Sent me down this road.  And that’s where it began. Yeah. 

Chuck Corra: I’m glad you mentioned that.  Because  it’s good to understand your evolution of it, but also I think collectively the churches, at least where you were  in seminary and everything like that. And so like fast forwarding year-end Portsmouth, Ohio right now, which is.

One of the, if not the biggest  what sort I’m looking for is  a hot zone of the opioid epidemic right now. How, w what are you, what’s that part of your ministry?  How are you incorporating what you learned, what you did  at your, at seminary and DC VTS to what you’re doing now?  As 

Rev. Paul Bennett: soon as I landed here in Portsmouth  I immediately was put in contact with two individuals who helped  get me going here.

 Abby Spears with the health department at that time. And Josh Lawson with an organization called faith in public life. And they both had, we’re doing a lot of the ground work of  my dream of what I could do in ministry in this area. And  after  proving myself not to be someone that was wanting to  evangelize and try to get members into the church  they began to allow me to start moving into this area.

 Abby specifically  helps with a syringe exchange program here helps administer that. And one of the ministries that I do is that I volunteer time there. And  it’s an interesting time. It’s just me and the clients as they come in to exchange syringes.  But it also provides  a touchdown.

 We have a lot of really interesting conversations.  One of the parts of my calling that I feel compelled by is to. Help people realize that everyone is a beloved child of God. And that abstinence from drug use does not dictate that. And it’s not acquirement. 

Chuck Corra: And exactly. 

 Rev. Paul Bennett: So  I’d worked a lot with the recovery community, but I want to be careful here because I want to celebrate the work that the recovery community does.

 It’s amazing work, but at times I have felt a level of. In some circles, a level of judgment and stigma that I think was reminded me of the theology and the, in the side of the church that I  fight against. Yeah. Absolutely shame and stigma, I think are huge issues. And the church  for its part has peddled in both of those.

And  so part of my harm reduction philosophy is not only  with  meeting people where they are  their drug use, but also reducing the harm that sort of bad theology does to people with substance use disorder or just people that use drugs that  may not suffer from substance use disorder, but just recreationally use drugs and get stigmatized.

 Chuck Corra: Absolutely. 

Big John: Yeah.  That’s super interesting to clarify. I I don’t know if you mentioned this or not. You said that part of what you were doing  or still are doing, you’re trying to get in as many churches as possible or places of worship. Do you know how many you’re in right now or how many you’ve affected?

 Rev. Paul Bennett: In Virginia we had  Laura probably 40 different churches throughout.  So it’s, it was Northern Virginia. So you can  throw in Maryland. DC Virginia.  We had, we probably trained 40, 45 clergy.  That’s great now.  So I’m at all saints Episcopal church in Portsmouth. I’m going to plug them real quick because we are  a site of an initiative called project Dawn, which is an initiative led by NIH to reach out to the 10 most  Or  the 10 highest overdose rate counties in the country.

 CYO county  home of Portsmouth is routinely the number one  ranked number one and overdoses per capita.  We  are right now in the past year have surpassed our worst years.   We are seeing the highest rate of lethal overdoses.  That we have ever seen. And I will just say from  my work    from the undergrad outside of this, that most of our overdoses are not being re  tally, so it’s as bad as it seems.

Wow.  Yeah,  it’s way worse because the truth is    the true first responders to an overdose are usually people that use drugs and they’re not calling nine 11. Or the police  due to some really crummy, good Samaritan laws  which  we are, we’re fighting right now to  have the state look at some new, good Samaritan laws.

 Some counties in Ohio have a limit on how many times an EMT will reverse an overdose. So more than twice, and they just walk away.  Then there’s forced treatment or jail time. So possession charges, or  if you do call nine 11, there’s an obligation to seek treatment. So then we flooded the treatment centers with people that don’t want to be there.

And really aren’t interested in sobriety overload, that system overload the prison system and you know how it goes.  Yeah, it’s crazy to hear that too. It is.   That’s awesome that you’re, you continue to expand, so flipping a little bit  you meant to do it also about people being skeptical,  and  coming in and maybe having  almost stereotyping you all right. Like whenever they see you  W, what was the reaction to you going into your church? First off you go into your church or go into these other churches and saying, Hey, we actually should start helping these people      practice what we preach type thing.

    Big John: So  what was the response? 

Rev. Paul Bennett: Oh,  it varies.  There is certainly  The sense from a lot of folks that  substance use disorder is a moral failing.  You didn’t pray hard enough. Yeah.  And so that’s usually the first thing that we have to press up against is the idea that this isn’t a moral failing    that this.

There’s a lot of reasons that people suffer from substance use disorder and to just wash it all as  you’re sinful  quite frankly, I think is sinful.    Then we  I quickly jumped to  two different avenues. If it’s an Episcopal church, I jumped straight to our baptismal covenant.  And the Episcopal church, we hold tightly to two particular parts of our baptismal covenant  that we will seek to serve Christ in all people, loving our neighbors as ourself.

And that will strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being. Those two  tend to shut everybody up. They get really quick from, 

Chuck Corra: it’s hard to very unimpeachable things. 

Rev. Paul Bennett: Yeah. The dignity part is huge.  As we know, dignity  is hard to come by  especially if you are an intravenous drug user.

And    that. That is  at the heart  of why I work at the syringe exchange or why I give Narcan out at the church is  a moment perhaps the only moment in that day, in that week that the client will come up and be told, I love you. God loves you. God bless you. You’re not broken. You’re not damaged.

You’re a beloved child of God. And through that, the smile that you see in return just says  Hey, I don’t hear that enough.  Really? Who does  who really does? You’re like, you’re loved enough, but  for the folks that I work with on a daily basis, it’s rare at best. And so giving that dignity, that mutuality like.

Also, it’s  funny. They’ll come in and say, Hey   you’re a priest. They assume a level of perfection from me that is incorrect.  Chuck you’ve known me for a long time.  I’ve not always been a priest.  And the color doesn’t necessarily say  Hey, he’s  he behaves well all the time.

   I get a chance to just  break the stigma of the color a little bit too.  Because it comes with its own barriers.  But yeah, absolutely. 

Big John: Yeah. That makes total sense.  And the reason I wanted to  touch on that. I grew up Catholic.      I don’t practice anymore, but  but I always felt my dad was an addict for years.

   And  I tend to try not to use that word, but with him it’s so difficult not to do just because it’s  like in my brain  with him.  But he  and he left early on in my life, but I felt like I could never talk about that in church because every time that somebody. Was talking about other people having problems.

There were either, there were two responses, there were one w  he just doesn’t love God enough, or too, there was this kind of like pity, praying party, right? Like where people kind of pity you and they’re like, let’s  let’s pray for you and your family, but it doesn’t come off sincere. It comes off almost    I’m, I am less than right.

And I think  that is    part of the reason I wanted to talk about, and the fact that you mentioned early on, you said that part of what you should be focusing on and something that you learned is touching on youth side of things, maybe  talking to them early on. And I find that to be extremely important.

Do you have any  do you use the same tactics you do  with, or do you have your own, whenever it comes to talking to young people about this. 

Rev. Paul Bennett: I generally  when talking with young people, that’s where it gets a little tricky because I’ll maybe be a little Frank and a little more honest than maybe the parents  necessarily want me to be.

But also I know that    that these problems can develop.   With youth  this isn’t just a grownup problem and especially any more  it seems to be younger and younger folks getting swirled up into the world of substance use disorder, especially  with opioids.  I know I can  I can’t count the amount of people.

I know that before they were adults. Had suffered some sort of injury and been over prescribed medication or prescribed medication and didn’t take it and then decided that they wanted to take a lot of it. And what, and I know how that can spiral out of control.  That’s touch  my own family system  and  many of the people that I’ve grown up with.

And      I’m pretty cut and dry with them about it.  And also    if there is a hint that  folks have friends who are using or are using themselves, I won’t hesitate to give them their Narcan.  I give it away a lot. That’s  the project on  is. Allows me to become a secondary distribution site for Narcan.

So I have a nice supply of Narcan available at the church that I give out to all sorts of folks.    Yeah, that less than part  the church can make people feel  that’s  that. And the funerals. Like really bad funerals for folks that have died of overdose  or suicide  or  like reasons  I put on the collar and fight this fight.

Yeah. Bad funerals and people being condemned to hell for substance use disorder.  It’s awful. Yeah. W  and  if anybody listening out there has a friend who has died from an overdose and needs a funeral  reach out. I will try to provide a funeral with dignity  and love because  too many funerals end up with some really nasty things happening.

Big John: Yeah.  That’s all these people  are looking for too.  Is this  the sense  of dignity and  the one thing I wanted to comment on, I’m sure you’re already thinking of this, but the big thing that  it’s, if it’s either you or  leaders in the harm reduction community or anything going on in terms of those resources, I always think that there needs to be  I focus also on the kids whose parents are going through this, right?

Because we often focus on the people who are going through it  which is a hundred percent  obviously we need to start there, but sometimes we forget about what those kids are going through. And I think that  By reaching out and  talking to them early and really getting them to grasp the concept of one it’s not their fault or two  they can be helped.

They’re not lost forever  and I think  that’s  sometimes what the church or even some of these groups tend to forget.  And so I just wanted to add that comment because I do think  that is a really important part that sometimes gets forgotten. 

Rev. Paul Bennett: Yeah, absolutely.  The children involved in these systems  it’s,

it’s  hard to wrap your head around  what the war on drugs, particularly from the eighties on  has done.  I don’t want to get up on my giant antiwar  drug soapbox, but it’s bound to happen eventually.    It. It’s destroyed the family.  Here, the church, we pretend to say that the family is number one, but yet we’ve sat back and watched families be utterly decimated by the war on drugs, especially in communities  full of black and brown bodies, where we have just raided their community of every male influence they have  leaving families broken and shattered and scattered.

   It’s I don’t use the word sin very often in my ministry  but  that’s where it gets used right there.    What we have done to people by criminalizing drug use, criminalizing possession  abstinence only messaging  that we give  to these communities.  It’s just, it’s.

It’s simple. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah. Yeah. I completely agree. Completely agree. And it’s really damaging to kids, especially who are growing up with that kind of mentality that messaging their whole lives. Yeah. It 

Rev. Paul Bennett: it’s incredibly harmful.  And then a lot of  the churches will then  baptize you for sobriety. And then what happens  when you relapsed as God left you  there’s just, it just seems like we’ve dropped the ball.

    I’m constantly in shock of how poorly the church has handled care  for folks with substance use disorder.  We have traditionally in the Episcopal church allowed an and N a to take place in our church buildings, but also haven’t acknowledged the fact  that’s a very holy space.  And there’s all, there’s just quite frankly, usually a giant chasm between the folks who meet in our basements and our parish halls and the folks who meet in our sanctuaries.

Absolutely.  And that’s where that dignity, that mutuality  meeting people where they are.  It’s really important. I completely agree. And I think the way you’re doing is really important because I feel like there, we touched on this, but there is a stigma with the church that is earned with that.

Chuck Corra: And so I’m  curious going forward.    You do this on an individual level. What’s been the reception where you are now in Southeast Ohio.  With the, I guess it’d be the Southeast Ohio diocese or whatever diocese you’re a part of. Do you feel like  there’s a change in tone with the church?

Or do you feel like  do you feel like anything’s changing with them as far  as their willingness to, I guess for lack of better word, to be more progressive on the issue of opioids and on how we treat people with substance use disorder? Yeah, 

Rev. Paul Bennett: I, I think  I’m in the diocese of Southern Ohio.  So we encompass Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton  which were  the epicenters  of population, but we also encompass the entire Appalachian section of Ohio that butts right up against  West Virginia and Kentucky.

And  we are  we’re a progressive diocese. We have    Two main focuses one, which is a  racial reconciliation movement called becoming a beloved community. And part of that  they have started a reparations task force. So  where this kind of falls in  is as framing it through the lens of the war on drugs and what  What’s happening to our black and brown communities.

 They’ve been willing to really look at this. We have a good social justice movement in our diocese. And so seeing harm reduction  as social justice, but also with the components of  race  one of the untold things about  the overdose rate is that the number one. Group, at least from the data that we’ve seen here  for overdose is black men fresh out of prison.

And so when you throw that in there that statistic, it really reframes this whole thing.  And so we were getting traction.  We are within the diocese  we’re getting traction and within honestly, within sight or to county within the last year, We’ve seen  three new churches come on with project on.

 And mainly through the work of Josh Lawson.  I can’t say that enough because I don’t have him riding his coattails a lot  in Portsmouth.  He was a former United church of Christ pastor here who left the church right. As I arrived and I. Pretty much picked up the torch that he was carrying.  But he has really championed  the stigma reduction within the faith community here and has done a lot of hard work.

And then I have picked that up and  I’ve continued to sort of champion that. And so where’s the we’re really,  it’s one of those things that as soon as the, as a church really sees it gets the blinders ripped off. They’re  oh dear, how have we missed this? Oh 

Chuck Corra: yeah.  That’s good to know that they at least have that realization,  yeah.  It’s the stigma thing.  We don’t want to talk about it. It’s been the elephant in the room and a lot of our churches and communities for a very long time and it affects so many of us that it’s hard to look out quite frankly, from a pulpit over any congregation and not see the stories. And wonder why in the world are we not talking about this?

 Rev. Paul Bennett: We’ve all lost someone, especially in this region. We’ve all lost someone or have a son or a cousin or a nephew that’s struggling. Come on.  Let’s get rid of this shame. Let’s get this out of the dark.  Let’s talk so we can heal so that we can support each other.  Absolutely because the shame 

Chuck Corra: just continues it.

Yeah. Yeah.  It just perpetuates it and pushes it more into the dark.  Paul, I really appreciate you sharing everything with us. And this has been a really great conversation.  I think it’s one that I’m excited for our listeners to hear, because I think. We really do need to work on shedding the stigma in so many different areas, but especially in the religious community where while a lot of times maybe it may be well-meaning  it isn’t helping the problem.

And I think what you’re doing is, and it’s really important and I hope that other people. Can see that the church, that there are people in the church that are doing it, whether or not you find yourself to be religious, whether or not you agree with the church, there are people there like yourself that  are really trying to provide a community-based way of helping people  and viewing them as human beings, not as problems.

So I really appreciate it. Yeah. Thank you. And thanks so much for joining us. No problem

was there interview with the great Reverend pub Bennett, Jen, a lot of important work in Southeast Ohio. I try to pronounce it like people from Portsmouth duke, but I don’t think I can  doing great work down there, John. And  and  what, if you  if you are in. A church you’re part of a church or  or you’re working in the faith community and you want  your community, your church to be more involved in harm reduction, let us know, and we’ll connect you a Paul.

Cause I know  that’s really important 

Big John: to him. Yeah.  And even if you’re like, I know that people will just listen to this, even if you’re not religious, even if you don’t    you don’t buy into the idea of courage or   maybe you don’t support that. That type of mindset, whatever we   it goes without saying we need churches to do these things because although you may think a certain way, somebody else thinks differently.

So you may not think that  somebody could come into your life and talk about God  and change things, but that may help someone down the road. And for a church to have the ability to have Narcan on hand in case somebody in their congregation overdoses, because you just don’t know anymore. It affects everybody.

It doesn’t have a socioeconomic  it doesn’t just pick based off of income or off of people who go to church or don’t go to church. It just doesn’t. So it can be anyone at any time. And we need churches who are going to do this. Even if we don’t buy into the idea of religion, we still need that.

In the community. Absolutely. 

Chuck Corra: I’m glad you mentioned that too, because  like it or not, it, the church is an important part of Appalachian. Many people are members of churches. And so it’s just a reality that, that  is a part of the region. And  like you said, having Narcan there and having people trained to use it can save a life.

Impossible Beef with Big John

What the impossible beef is. I should say this week from John. So I’m going to be shocked by it, but I know that there’s been a lot of strangely shit happening. So John, without further ado, what impossible beef do you have to bestow on our beautiful listeners this week and beef with big John ladies and gentlemen and gender nonbinary worldwide, we are pleased to present to you.

Free freedom and Melville. Self coming to you live from a foreclosed Ponderosa back to back world champion brief.

 Big John: Now that it’s June, right?  We’re in this month of June, first off. Great month. I hear that June 22nd is probably the best day that’s ever come and gone.  Mostly because I was born that way.  Let’s, 

Chuck Corra: let’s just, let’s put a pause there real quick. And remember the two days before that. It’s West Virginia 

Big John: day is West Virginia day.

 And that’s also end of the mask mandate day. It must be, man. 

Chuck Corra: I can’t imagine that those two are related at all.  And 20 days before that  is my anniversary of my wonderful wife, June 2nd.  Nice anyway, had to get that plug in there. Go ahead. Sorry. I 

Big John: understand. So anyway, June 22nd, obviously, best day, June 2nd, close.

Second.        The month of June  is really important to a lot of people and who I’m talking about our LGBTQ plus friends, right?  And something that we’re doing, I’m going to turn this beef into  a weird hat for one second.  From on our T public merch store, we have a shirt. Yeah.

 It’s as Appalachian pride, you can go check it out. We’re going to donate a hundred percent of our profits of the podcast profits to LGBT groups  all around Appalachia. And so obviously the more that we raise, the more that we can help.    So if you go buy a shirt, we’re going to donate a hundred percent of those profits from that shirt.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because I also know that in June, this is all, this is probably the biggest hate-filled month when it comes to our LGBTQ plus friends.  Because they’re the people who  you’re going to have pride parades,  which you’re going to bring out the people who hate  who hate gay people or who hate this.

Idea of not conforming to what everybody else thinks is. Okay. This is a really tough month for a lot of people. It’s also a really happy month for a lot of people. And. The main point I’m trying to say is this month, especially  if you’re LGBTQ plus great, go celebrate it. You’ll you all deserve it. To be honest  the shit year that’s happened, especially with a lot of the states and Appalachia going after our trans friends, that it’s just y’all deserve to be able to celebrate if you’re not.

Shut the up. I’m just so sick of people trying to steal it.  This month away from these people, right? Like they asked for a month, give this damn month,  be an ally to these people, but don’t make it about yourself. Make it about them. Yeah.   I should be clear if I’m saying  if you disagree with what they’re saying, shut the up.

 If you can, cause it doesn’t bother you, it doesn’t pertain to you at all. Literally it has nothing to do with you, but if you do try to make it about. Them. I noticed that a lot of people who are allies try to maybe not even purposefully, but they end up making that month about themselves, about how much they’re an ally to their LGBTQ plus friends.

But that’s not what that month is about. It’s not about the allies. It’s about the people who have gone through the struggle  year after year, day after day.  Who continued to have to fight for their rights to this day, which is insane to me. And so all I’m saying. Make sure you, you go support those people.

If you don’t support those people. One, you’re  probably just an asshole, but two don’t just leave it alone. Like we posted the  and the reason this got brought up is we posted the shirt on Instagram.  And we had  this person who just openly said  Ooh, and it’s not the first time that we’ve seen these things about LGBTQ  Their community.

 It just blows my mind that we have it to this day. Yeah. And I was, 

Chuck Corra: I was honestly surprised about that too, because the person actually had a picture at which yeah. It wasn’t like a troll accounts. It was very brazen. And just a reminder that there are still terrible people out there. 

Big John: Too long didn’t read version LGBTQ plus month is June.

It’s about them. Not about you make sure that  you’re out there. You’re supporting your friends and go buy a shirt. We’ll donate a hundred percent of the problem. We’re not like target or Walmart or whatever. Like we’re not trying to make money off of this. We want to donate all that money because we want to help as many people as possible.

Because again, we know how much. Stuff they’ve been through in the last year  and they could probably use the help. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah. It’s  if you’re a white person and on black history month, you’re bragging about  how much support, how many friends you have and how much support  you’re showing to your black friends.

So just  weird, but yeah.  I, it’s important to also observe pride month because  it’s important to acknowledge the struggle that our LGBTQ plus    comrades have gone through their whole lives.  Appreciate that.  Good beef could be  good impossibly strong stuff. And  we’ll be back next week with the final episode in our opioid series, we’re hearing from a person who struggled with substance use disorder was formerly incarcerated and now has gone on to be elected to public office and is trying to change things around opioids and the addiction crisis.

So looking forward to that next week and we’ll see you then.

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